noun har·em \ˈher-əm\

Definition of harem

  1. 1a :  a usually secluded house or part of a house allotted to women in some Muslim householdsb :  the wives, concubines, female relatives, and servants occupying a harem

  2. 2 informal :  a group of women associated with one man the pop star and his harem

  3. 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

Examples of harem in a sentence

  1. the pop star and his harem

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.

Origin and Etymology of harem

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

First Known Use: 1634

HAREM Defined for English Language Learners


noun har·em \ˈher-əm\

Definition of harem for English Language Learners

  • : 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

  • : a group of women who are associated with one man

Seen and Heard

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


to help become familiar with something

Get Word of the Day daily email!


Take a 3-minute break and test your skills!

  • ludwig-richter-spring-has-arrived
  • Which is a synonym of upbraid?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.