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

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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

Royal gardens, peeling frescoes, and tiled mosaics are breathtaking in their beauty, but the zenith of any visit is a wander through the sultan’s harem, once home to hundreds of concubines and their eunuch guards. Ashlea Halpern, Condé Nast Traveler, "Three Days In Istanbul," 28 Dec. 2018 Does this woman-as-symbol express strong self-possession or female submission, respect for her religion or an Orientalist echo of the harem? Laura Jacobs, WSJ, "‘Contemporary Muslim Fashions’ Review: Eye-Catching Modesty," 19 Sep. 2018 Bronfman is charged with money laundering, extortion and other crimes in connection with the Albany-area group, which is accused of keeping and branding a harem of women for leader Keith Raniere to bed. Fox News, "Seagram's heiress wants more freedom after Nxivm house arrest," 27 Sep. 2018 My next book will be about Gulbadan Begum, a daughter of [founding Moghul emperor] Babur who dared to lead an all-women's journey to Mecca after the first harem was established. Randy Dotinga, The Christian Science Monitor, "Ruby Lal, author of 'Empress,' discusses the amazing life and reign of Nur Jahan," 27 June 2018 But the hippo harem lifestyle means that females stay close to home. Steve Mirsky, Scientific American, "A Look at the Inner Lives of 13 Species of Animals You Think You Know," 13 July 2018 Beyoncé is a harem of one on this Arabian Nights sexcapade -- produced by the then-hot Scott Storch -- which hit No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100. Chuck Arnold, Billboard, "Beyonce's 'Dangerously in Love' Turns 15: All the Tracks, Ranked," 23 June 2018 Becca ends up paring her harem down to a mere 12 men, sending home track suit enthusiast Nick and Christon, who will have to try and find love with a Harlem Globetrotters groupie instead. Melissa Locker, Time, "The Bachelorette Watch: Becca Wants a 'Lumberjack for Her Lumberjill'," 19 June 2018 The image is that of young preppy sultans in a harem of Junior Leaguers. William Stadiem, Town & Country, "Can Harvard's Storied Final Clubs Resist the Tides of Change?," 2 Aug. 2016

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

The first known use of harem was in 1634

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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

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More from Merriam-Webster on 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

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).


incapable of being surmounted or overcome

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