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 animalsResearchers 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

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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 For instance, if there are several animals in the area, maybe a bull elk and a harem of cows, there may be hoof prints running haphazardly. Tom Keer, Field & Stream, "5 Top Blood-Trailing Tips From a Master Tracker," 15 Jan. 2020 Bokeem Woodbine delivers an effective mix of underplaying and swagger in the role, and Pose's Indya Moore makes a nearly wordless impression as a key member of the household harem. Sheri Linden, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Queen & Slim': Film Review | AFI 2019," 15 Nov. 2019 The bull spent the morning herding its harem of cows around the parking area in front of the courthouse, forcing tourists and security guides alike to duck behind cars or into buildings as the wild animal stalked the area. Trevor Hughes, USA TODAY, "Federal judge oversees wild court at America's original national park," 17 Oct. 2019 The big bulls can reach 20 feet and 5,000 pounds and collect harems of the smaller females. Tom Stienstra, SFChronicle.com, "More than 1 million waterfowl star in driving tour of Sacramento National Wildlife Complex," 23 Nov. 2019 During the fall rut period, elk are highly social and stay in large harem groups out in open areas. USA TODAY, "Disney surprise, foreign feral hogs, porous pavement: News from around our 50 states," 13 Sep. 2019 In modern fiction, Indu Sundaresan’s The Twentieth Wife talks about harem intrigues involving Ruqaiyya Begum, Jagat Gosain (officially called Taj Bibi Bilqis Makani), and Mehrunnisa, the future Noor Jahan. Manimugdha S Sharma, Quartz India, "Who was the real Akbar? The one played by Hrithik Roshan or that described by Abu’l Fazl," 20 Oct. 2019 Gioia never mentions that cross-cultural hotbed of female musical innovation, the pharaonic harem. Los Angeles Times, "Review: The history of music — all of it — in 400-plus pages," 14 Oct. 2019 Baja East's favorite silhouettes -- harem and palazzo pants, oversized sweatshirts, and raglan t-shirts -- still reign supreme in their latest offering that heavily features coral, blue and fringe detailing. Nicole Saunders, Billboard, "Janelle Monaé Shuts Down Ralph Lauren, Christian Siriano Goes Pop & More of NYFW's Best Music Moments," 13 Sep. 2019

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.

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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

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Time Traveler for harem

Time Traveler

The first known use of harem was in 1634

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Statistics for harem

Last Updated

21 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Harem.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/harem. Accessed 24 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for harem


How to pronounce harem (audio)

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

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More from Merriam-Webster on harem

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for harem

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with harem

Spanish Central: Translation of harem

Nglish: Translation of harem for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of harem for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about harem

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