har·em | \ˈher-əm \

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

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 So there is this fascination with the idea of an Oriental harem. David Lyman, Cincinnati.com, "How Rodgers and Hammerstein's 'The King and I' makes sense today," 6 Apr. 2018 Hijras figure prominently in India’s Muslim history as well, serving as the sexless watchdogs of Mughal harems. New York Times, "The Peculiar Position of India’s Third Gender," 17 Feb. 2018 Into this came crashing Stormy Daniels: a professional beauty right out of the pages of a glossy lad magazine who must have seemed to Trump a perfect addition to his harem of the hush-able. Rhonda Garelick, The Cut, "Stormy Daniels Is the Anti-Trump," 14 Mar. 2018

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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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

: a group of women who are associated with one man

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