Polyamory is a hybrid word: poly is Greek for many and amor is Latin for love. It has been independently coined by several people, including Morning Glory Zell-Ravenheart whose article "A Bouquet of Lovers" (1990) is widely cited as the source of the word, and Jennifer Wesp who created the Usenet newsgroup alt.polyamory in 1992. However, the term has been reported in occasional use since the 1960s, and even outside polygamous cultures such relationships existed well before the name was coined; for one example dating from the 1920s, see William Moulton Marston.
Webster's New Millennium Dictionary of English defines polyamory as:
Participation in multiple and simultaneous loving or sexual relationships."
Merriam Webster's Dictionary gives the definition as:
The state or practice of having more than one open romantic relationship at a time."
In 1999, Morning Glory Zell-Ravenheart was asked by the editor of the Oxford English Dictionary to provide a definition of the term (which the dictionary had not previously recognised). Her definition was:
The practice, state or ability of having more than one sexual loving relationship at the same time, with the full knowledge and consent of all partners involved. This term was meant to be inclusive, and in that context, we have never intended to particularly exclude "swinging" per se, if practitioners thereof wished to adopt the term and include themselves... The two essential ingredients of the concept of polyamory are more than one; and loving. That is, it is expected that the people in such relationships have a loving emotional bond, are involved in each other's lives multi-dimensionally, and care for each other. This term is not intended to apply to merely casual recreational sex, anonymous orgies, one-night stands, pick-ups, prostitution, "cheating," serial monogamy, or the popular definition of swinging as "mate-swapping" parties.
Polyamory means "loving more than one". This love may be sexual, emotional, spiritual, or any combination thereof, according to the desires and agreements of the individuals involved, but you needn't wear yourself out trying to figure out ways to fit fondness for apple pie, or filial piety, or a passion for the Saint Paul Saints baseball club into it. "Polyamorous" is also used as a descriptive term by people who are open to more than one relationship even if they are not currently involved in more than one. (Heck, some are involved in less than one.) Some people think the definition is a bit loose, but it's got to be fairly roomy to fit the wide range of poly arrangements out there.
Terminology related to polyamorous v. open relationships
An open relationship generally denotes a relationship (usually between two people, but sometimes among larger groups) in which participants may have sexual involvement with other, with the consent of their partner(s). Where a couple making this agreement are married, it is an open marriage. "Open relationship" and "polyamorous" are overlapping rather than identical terms; people may use either or both terms in describing their relationship. Broadly, "open" usually refers to the sexual aspect of a non-closed relationship, whereas polyamory involves the extension of a relationship by allowing bonds to form (which may be sexual or otherwise) as additional long term relationships:
* Some non-monogamous relationships place sexual restrictions on partners (e.g. polyfidelity); such relationships may be polyamorous, but not open.
* Some relationships permit sex outside the primary relationship, but not love (cf. swinging); such relationships are open, but not polyamorous.
* Some polyamorists do not accept the dichotomies of "in a relationship/not in a relationship" and "partners/not partners"; without these divisions, it is meaningless to class a relationship as "open" and "closed".
* Many polyamorists consider "polyamory" to be their (emotional/philosophical) relationship orientation (just as "gay" and "straight" are sexual orientations) â€” they identify as poly (one capable and desirous of multiple loves) â€” whereas "open relationship" is used as a logistical description: that is, it describes a particular form of relationship, sometimes employed by polys. They might say of themselves, for instance, "I am polyamorous (or "I'm poly"); my primary partner and I have an open relationship..."
Polyamorous people come from a wide variety of backgrounds.
Some belong to an organised religion, and some don't.
Some have children, and some don't.
Some are currently looking for new relationships, and some aren't.
We are of all ages, ethnicities, sexual orientations, occupations, and political persuasions.
The one and only thing that all polyamorous people have in common is this:-
We believe it is possible to have more than one romantic relationship at a time, ethically and constructively.