po·​lyg·​y·​ny pə-ˈli-jə-nē How to pronounce polygyny (audio)
: the state or practice of having more than one wife or female mate at a time compare polyandry, polygamy

Examples of polygyny in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web What does the contemporary West African practice of polygyny—one man, many wives—have to do with the trans-Atlantic slave trade? Tunku Varadarajan, wsj.com, 20 Apr. 2023 That is, some researchers have assumed that the prevalence of patrilocality and polygyny in relation to matrilocality and polyandry, combined with the structural fact that the X is disproportionately carried in females, can explain the differences in patterns of genetic variation. Razib Khan, Discover Magazine, 7 Feb. 2010 Phylogenetic reconstructions suggest that marriages in early ancestral human societies probably had low levels of polygyny (low reproductive skew) and reciprocal exchanges between the families of marital partners (i.e., brideservice or brideprice). Razib Khan, Discover Magazine, 29 Apr. 2011 In most mammals for polygyny this would mean that the X chromosome would be more diverse than the autosome, because the autosome is equally impacted by male and female demographics, while the X chromosome has a lesser impact from males. Razib Khan, Discover Magazine, 16 Sep. 2012 Naturally the Islamists wish to legalize polygyny in Tunisia. Razib Khan, Discover Magazine, 1 Feb. 2012 Some have argued that this period of ubiquitous common law polygyny has influenced the fact that illegitimate births have traditionally been very common in Latin America. Razib Khan, Discover Magazine, 10 June 2013 This is in keeping with the high reproductive output attested for European males thanks to polygyny during this period. Razib Khan, Discover Magazine, 10 June 2013 Hummingbirds have a combination of extraordinarily versatile structural coloration in their feather barbules, and a long history of female mate choice (including, exclusive female parental care and polygyny). Grrlscientist, Forbes, 26 June 2022 See More

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

Word History


poly- + -gyny

First Known Use

1780, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of polygyny was in 1780

Dictionary Entries Near polygyny

Cite this Entry

“Polygyny.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/polygyny. Accessed 1 Dec. 2023.

Medical Definition


po·​lyg·​y·​ny pə-ˈlij-ə-nē How to pronounce polygyny (audio)
plural polygynies
: the state or practice of having more than one wife or female mate at one time compare polyandry, polygamy
polygynous adjective

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