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plural polys ˈpä-lēz How to pronounce poly (audio)
often attributive
: a polymerized plastic or something made of this
especially : a polyester fiber, fabric, or garment


2 of 3


informal : polyamorous
"Everybody up there's poly, you know? … You can love more than one person at a time."Donald Harstad
… when you're in a poly relationship, you have to have a higher baseline of communication – you have to deal with problems right away.Heather Nicoll


3 of 3

combining form

: many : several : much : multi-
: containing an indefinite number more than one of a (specified) substance
: polymeric : polymer of a (specified) monomer
polyadenylic acid

Examples of poly in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web
The hardest part of being solo poly, in Ms. Morgan’s experience, has been maintaining healthy emotional regulation and staying aware of her own needs in the midst of it all. Gina Cherelus, New York Times, 8 Feb. 2024 In interviews with people who identify as solo poly, many described facing misconceptions about their lifestyle. Gina Cherelus, New York Times, 8 Feb. 2024 Available as ornamental banners, in fans, and by the bolt, the bunting comes in traditional cotton, easy-care cotton/poly, and convenient plastic. Sarah Martens, Better Homes & Gardens, 2 Aug. 2023 The recycled poly takes a slight edge thanks to enhanced durability, water resistance, and being rated machine washable. Dorian Smith-Garcia, Travel + Leisure, 26 May 2023 This wool blend jacket is super stylish and versatile thanks to the loose-fitting silhouette and laydown collar, while the zip nylon bib and poly-fill quilted lining help provide additional warmth and comfort even in cooler temperatures. Kaitlyn McInnis, Travel + Leisure, 24 Jan. 2023 The sheepskin leather is the most snappy and lightweight (but also the least durable), while recycled poly and Tyvek are water-resistant and eco-friendly. Talia Ergas, Travel + Leisure, 24 Jan. 2023 Memory foam Memory foam fill is simply viscoelastic poly-foam that softens to react to body heat but then regains shape upon cooling. Deirdre Mundorf, Discover Magazine, 14 Dec. 2021 Material 95% organic cotton, 4% recycled poly, 1% lyocell. Christian Gollayan, Men's Health, 7 Dec. 2022

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'poly.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History



short for polymer


by shortening

Combining form

borrowed from Greek, combining form of polýs (feminine pollḗ, neuter polý) "large, great (in size), many, much, great (in amount or degree)," going back to Indo-European *pelh1-u-, *pl̥h1-u-, a u-stem quantifier meaning "much, many," whence also Germanic *felu- (< *pelh1-u-) (whence Old English fela, feola "much, a great number, many," Old Frisian felo, fele, Old Saxon & Old High German filu "much, many, to a high degree," Old Icelandic fjǫl- "much, many" [in compounds], Gothic filu), Old Irish il "many, much" (< *pelh1-u-), Sanskrit purú- "much, many, abundant," Avestan pouru-, Old Persian paru- (all < *pl̥h1-u-; compare Sanskrit feminine pūrvī́- < *pl̥h1-u̯ih2-)

Note: The source of the o in the Greek form, which is not reflected in the other languages, has been the subject of debate. A. Sihler (New Comparative Grammar of Greek and Latin, p. 43) points out that Cowgill's Law (turning o to u in Greek between a labial consonant and a resonant, in either order) should have resulted in *pylýs rather than polýs. G. Kroonen (Etymological Dictionary of Proto-Germanic, s.v. *felu-) accounts for the o via a paradigm *pélh1-us (common gender nominative), *pl̥h1-u̯-ós (genitive), *pólh1-u- (neuter nominative), *pl̥h1-éu̯-s (genitive). The base *pelh1- is generally regarded as a secondary full grade form of the verbal base *pleh1- "become full"—see full entry 1.

First Known Use


1942, in the meaning defined above


1992, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of poly was in 1942

Dictionary Entries Near poly

Cite this Entry

“Poly.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/poly. Accessed 15 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


combining form
: many : several

Combining form

Middle English poly- "many," from Latin poly- (same meaning), derived from Greek polys "many, several, much"

Medical Definition


plural polys -ēz How to pronounce poly (audio)
: a polymorphonuclear leukocyte

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