har·​em | \ ˈher-əm How to pronounce harem (audio) \

Definition of harem

1a : a usually secluded house or part of a house allotted to women in some Muslim households
b : the wives, concubines, female relatives, and servants occupying a harem
2 informal : a group of women associated with one man the pop star and his harem
3 : a group of females associated with one male used of polygamous animals Researchers who study elk have determined that the males who possess the largest harems of females not only sport the largest racks of antlers, but also the most symmetrical ones.— Natalie Angier

Keep scrolling for more

Did You Know?

In a Muslim household, a harem is a part of a house set apart for women and from which nonfamily males are excluded. Harems existed in the pre-Islamic civilizations of the Middle East and in the courts of pre-Islamic Assyria, Persia, and Egypt. The harem was also found in the courts of China and Japan as well as in India and southeast Asia. Large harems for wives and concubines were common in wealthy Arab households into the 20th century; the great harem of the Turkish sultans (15th–20th century) contained several hundred women, guarded by eunuchs. By the later 20th century, the full harem system remained only among conservative elements of Arab society.

Examples of harem in a Sentence

the pop star and his harem
Recent Examples on the Web The area is very secluded and bulls like to go to the meadow for a big drink and a refreshing splash in the wallow during midday, while their harem is sleeping off a night of debauchery. Outdoor Life, "7 Rules You Must Follow to Punch Your Big-Game Tag on Public Land," 10 Dec. 2020 The buck was pacing the edges of the harem, keeping the does in some order that seemed to make sense to him, as a sheep dog would a band of ewes. Will Brantley, Field & Stream, "Hunting Antelope with a Lever-Action .357 Is So Much Fun, It’ll Make You Feel Like a Kid Again," 14 Nov. 2020 Sneaking up on a pronghorn buck that’s trying to keep his harem in order is fun in the way that fifth-grade dodgeball was fun. Will Brantley, Field & Stream, "Hunting Antelope with a Lever-Action .357 Is So Much Fun, It’ll Make You Feel Like a Kid Again," 14 Nov. 2020 Amenhotep did build a harem, but his relationship with Tiye was different from the start. National Geographic, "King Tut's grandparents were Egypt's royal power couple," 17 Sep. 2020 King Vajiralongkorn spends most of his time in Germany, where paparazzi occasionally manage to take snaps of him and members of his harem in the sort of get-up the marchers were mimicking. The Economist, "Do you hear the people, king? Daring Thais march to the palace to demand royal reform," 26 Sep. 2020 The amir of Kabul bought bicycles for his entire harem. National Geographic, "How bicycles transformed our world," 17 June 2020 The main antagonist is a warlord named Abdullah who has a harem that falls under the temporary protection of Sukhov. Eric Berger, Ars Technica, "I was bored, so I watched the movie that astronauts must view before launch," 8 Apr. 2020 The Style Magazine’s Hollywood-harem layout shifts political focus to the camouflage of showbiz glamour and presumed power. Armond White, National Review, "Mind Control, via Cultural Coverage, at the New York Times," 17 Apr. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'harem.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of harem

1634, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for harem

ultimately from Arabic ḥarīm, literally, something forbidden & ḥaram, literally, sanctuary

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about harem

Statistics for harem

Cite this Entry

“Harem.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/harem. Accessed 5 Mar. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLA Chicago APA Merriam-Webster

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for harem



English Language Learners Definition of harem

: a house or part of a house in which the women of a Muslim household live
: the women who live in a harem in a Muslim household
informal : a group of women who are associated with one man

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on harem

What made you want to look up harem? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


Test Your Vocabulary

Who Knew?

Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!