POLYAMORY GLOSSARY

So we're all on the same page with semantic concerns

Polyamory: A subset of ethical non-monogamy where the assumption is that all partners may seek out multiple loving relationships. From the Greek “poly,” meaning many, and Latin “amor,” meaning love. Structures beyond this vary between people and groups of people.

Ace: An abbreviation for asexual, sometimes used as a part of a longer or larger self-identification.

Agender: A person identifies as agender if they feel that neither binary gender applies to them, and that identifying in any place on a spectrum of those genders upholds the gender binary. Different individuals use this term differently, and some people use this interchangeably with nonbinary. Typically, agender and nonbinary gender identities are viewed as falling under the transgender umbrella. *

Anchor Partner: A partner who one regards as a central figure in one’s life, a stable “rock” or “anchor” to lean on. Often used in non-hierarchical relationships for someone’s equivalent(s) of a primary partner in a hierarchical setting.

Asexual: Having low or nonexistent sexual imperative or interest. There are several subcategories of asexual that someone might identify with. This word is sometimes shortened to “ace.

Barriers: Physical impediments to the exchange of sexual fluids. Most often used to refer to condoms, although dental dams and gloves for manual stimulation also fall under this umbrella.

Bisexual: Having sexual attraction to one’s own gender and other genders.

 

Chosen family: Exactly as the name states, people one chooses to be one’s family in place of blood family, because of shared values and emotional support. 

Cisgender: A person is cisgender if they identify as their gender as assigned at birth. Derived from a Latin root meaning on the near side. 

Closed Polycule / Polyfidelitous Relationship: Two terms for groups of people who have decided not to see people outside of their existing relationship networks. Polyfidelitous is sometimes shortened to “polyfi.” 

Comet: A long distance relationship where the partners only meet in person rarely but are happy to pick up their connection at those times and be less intensely in touch in between, like a comet passing close enough for the Earth to see every few years. 

Compersion: Happiness at the joy of one’s partner in another relationship; sometimes referred to as the opposite of jealousy. 

Cowboy/Cowgirl: The gendered names for someone who acts polyamorous and then after forming a relationship, tries to remove their partner from the polycule to be monogamous with them. so called because they are "roping one off from the herd." I and my local community have never heard a nongendered version of this term, but please let me know if you have and I'll add it!

DADT: The shortened form of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, used to refer to the relationship structure.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Relationships: A relationship in which a (usually formerly monogamous, usually hierarchical and primary) couple choose to allow each other to see other people but don’t want information on their metamours or what their partner does with them. Sometimes there is a clause included for basic sexual risk/safety information to be shared. The most extreme form of parallel polyamory. 

Dyad: A relationship of two people; can be monogamous or the relationship between any two people in a polyamorous network. 

Ethical Non-monogamy: Any relationship structure in which all partners are aware and consenting to some form of non-monogamy, be it sexual, emotional, or both. Known in social science studies as Consensual Non-Monogamy.

Ethical Slut: The Ethical Slut is a book by Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy that through three editions published between 1997 and 2017 influenced the formation of modern polyamorous community. Ethical Slut is also a phrase taken on by many people to indicate that they honestly and openly carried out multiple relationships. 

Fluid Bonding: Not using barriers for sexual activities; almost always used to indicate that condoms are not used for vaginal or anal intercourse, sometimes also used to indicate the lack of barriers for oral and manual sex. 

Friend with Benefits: A sexual relationship with someone with whom you have an emotional but not romantic connection. 

Frubble: An alternate term for moments of compersion. 

Genderqueer: People who identify as genderqueer identify outside the categories of man and woman. The term has overlap with nonbinary and agender, and is sometimes the subject of controversy because queer has been used as a slur against non-cis and non-hetero people. *

Heterosexual: Having sexual attraction to the opposite binary gender. 

Hierarchical Relationships: Relationships in which certain partnerships are prioritized above others and/or given additional powers in rule-setting. Often, but not always, the early result of people discovering polyamory when they have an existing partnership.

 

Hinge: The shared partner between two people - so called because in using shapes to describe “polycules,” they’re often the point a shape hinges on; also because hinges can open and close, as a convenient metaphor for describing the relationship between metamours.

Homosexual: Having sexual attraction to people with one’s own gender identity.

KTP: An abbreviation of Kitchen Table Polyamory.

Kitchen Table Polyamory: A style of polyamorous relationship in which the interrelationship of a network, and the integration of multiple romantic relationships into one life or group, is prioritized. Close relationships between metamours and/or telemours are strongly encouraged or required. The name comes from the notion that all members of a network “can sit around the kitchen table in their PJs, drinking coffee” (Kimchi Cuddles #452)

LDR: An abbreviation for long distance relationship.

Limerence: A state of mind which results from a romantic attraction to another person and typically includes obsessive thoughts and fantasies and a desire to form or maintain a relationship with the object of love; sometimes referred to as “the anxious part of NRE.”

Long Distance Relationship: A relationship where the partners are physically distant from one another; because this is self defined and situationally defined, a long distance relationship for someone who lacks consistent transportation might be with someone at a distance that others don’t consider long distance. Often abbreviated LDR. 

Long Term Relationship: A relationship of extended duration. Often abbreviated LTR.

LTR: the abbreviation for long term relationship.

Meta: the shortened form of metamour.

Metamour: The partner of one’s partner; from the root “meta,” beyond - so literally “beyond love.” Often abbreviated meta.

N: A four person polycule where A and B are romantically involved; B and C are romantically involved; and C and D are romantically involved, but there are no triads within that network. Sometimes also called a Z. 

Nesting Partner: A partner with whom one shares a home. 

New Relationship Energy: The excitement and giddiness that comes with a new relationship and its early stages; some scientists believe it is the result of oxcytocin and vasopressin. It is potentially obsessive and similar to limerence, except that it occurs after a relationship has begun. It can be extremely positive, but also for some people jittery and challenging. Often abbreviated NRE.

Nonbinary: A person identifies as nonbinary if they feel that neither binary gender applies to them. They may apply additional terms that define their gender expression as an identity as well as nonbinary as a gender identity umbrella term. This term usually is seen to fall under the umbrella of transgender. It is sometimes shortened to nb or “enby,” especially when used by nonbinary people themselves.

Non-Hierarchical Relationships: Relationships which strive for equal autonomy and standing of relationships rather than prioritizing one over another. These are not immune from “ inherent hierarchy,” such as shared responsibilities with a partner with whom one shares children or a home, or who one has been with a much longer time, but they ascribe to an ideal of involving all network members in discussions of rule changes that will impact them and limiting prioritization when possible. 

NRE: the abbreviation for New Relationship Energy.

 

Old Relationship Energy: The comfort and security associated with an established relationship. Used in contrast to NRE and often abbreviated ORE.

 

One Penis Policy: Firmly enforced rules that there can only be one penis-having individual (typically a cis man) in a relationship network. Often considered transphobic because they are often phrased as "one man," denying the genders of trans women and trans men; and generally considered belittling of relationships between women because it implies that same sex relationships are "safer"for the cis man imposing this rule on partner(s).

Open Polycule: A relationship network in which people are welcome to search for additional partners and enter into new relationships.

 

OPP: An abbreviation of One Penis Policy.

ORE: an abbreviation for Old Relationship Energy.

 

OSO: an abbreviation for other significant other.

 

Other Significant Other: A significant other outside of one’s primary or nesting partner; often a term used by people newly entering a polyamorous relationship while already in a partnership.

 

Pansexual: Having sexual attraction to all genders.

 

Parallel Polyamory: A style of polyamorous relationship in which each individual relationship exists largely independent of either partner’s additional romantic or sexual relationships, and in which there is not an intentional focus on entwining the relationship network. There may be close relationships between some metamours or telemours, but there is no requirement for this and there may be low or no contact between some members of the larger relationship network.

 

Paramour: An alternate term for one’s partner or love.

 

Partner: A person with whom one has a relationship. This relationship is often romantic but can be defined however the people involved choose. 

 

Platonic Life Partner: A partner with whom one may not be romantic or sexual, but to whom one has made lifelong commitments which may include things like cohabiting and coparenting. Sometimes abbreviated PLP.

 

PLP: An abbreviation for platonic life partner.

 

Poly family: A group of polyamorous people who consider each other to be family.

 

Polycule: A network of interconnected relationships; can be used to refer to the network itself, or a chart illustrating the same. A portmanteau of “poly” and “molecule,” because of the varied possible configurations and how they can resemble charts of the chemical structures of molecules. Groups and networks larger than four people often simply use “polycule” or “constellation” to describe their network, rather than using one of the specialized terms for smaller units, as the shapes can get complicated.

 

Polysexual: Having sexual attraction to many but not all genders. Note: many people use pansexual for this definition as well, as it is the more popular term and discourse around sexualities is shifting.

 

Primary Relationship/Partner: The prioritized relationship or partner in a hierarchical set-up. Some people have multiple primary partners, or leave the option for additional primary-level relationships to exist; but many who prefer this relationship structure do not.

 

Quad: A four person relationship network where all the parties are romantically interconnected. 

 

RA: an abbreviation for relationship anarchy.

 

Relationship Anarchy: A relationship structure that can be viewed as a kind of non-hierarchical polyamory, but more specifically applies anarchist principles of self-determination and lack of state involvement to intimate relationships. Often abbreviated RA. It allows for the individual definition of each relationship without labels being applied, and a great deal of argument exists around how RA is or isn’t included in polyamorous movements and community.

 

Secondary Relationship/Partner: Additional partners or relationships beyond the primary ones in a hierarchical network. They often have to accept pre-existing rules or limits on time defined by the primary relationship members, without recourse to change these. 

Solo Polyamory: A form of polyamory in which an individual chooses to be their own “primary partner,” building connections without the assumption of progressing up the “relationship escalator” with one or more. Often includes the assumption of living apart from all partners.

 

Telemour: The partner of a metamour who is not your shared partner; from the root “tele,” distant - so literally “distant love.” Used less commonly than metamour.

 

Throuple: An alternate word for triad, a portmanteau of Three and Couple. 

 

Transgender: A person who identifies as transgender identifies as any gender other than the one they were assigned at birth. This may be the only gender identifying term they use, or they may use other, more specific terms within the trans umbrella.*

 

Triad: A relationship of three people, all of whom are romantically involved with one another. A triad contains three dyads (A and B; A and C; and B and C) as well as the triad relationship (A and B and C). One of the most publicized forms of polyamory in mainstream media.

 

Unicorn: A bisexual woman who prefers to have relationships with both parts of a heterosexual couple on terms set primarily by that couple’s agreements.

 

Unicorn Hunters: Couples who seek a bisexual woman who prefers to have relationships with both parts of a heterosexual couple on terms set primarily by that couple’s agreements for a relationship. This term is often used derisively, as this type of person is almost impossible to find because of the need to agree with all of the couple’s terms, and because this structure when managed is often used to negatively impact young bisexual women new to polyamory.

 

V: A relationship network including three people where there are two “ends” who are metamours but not romantically involved with one another, and a hinge partner. A V (sometimes written vee) polycule contains two dyads (A and B and B and C).

 

Veto: A power granted to existing partner(s) to “call off” an additional relationship. Often time-limited to the beginning of a new flirtation or relationship, but occasionally an open power to terminate additional relationships at any time. 

 

Wibble: A brief moment of fear, insecurity, or other strong negative emotion. 

*Note: terminology around gender is constantly shifting, and as a cisgender person, I am less involved in these discussions than I am in those around polyamory; however I include some of these terms in my writing as they apply to people I know so I have included them in this glossary. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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