Definition of promiscuous
- education … cheapened through the promiscuous distribution of diplomas
- —Norman Cousins
a promiscuous selection of poems
since I just collect stamps that I happen to like, my collection is pretty promiscuous
These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'promiscuous.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.
Promiscuous (from Latin promiscuus “without distinction, taken from every different type”) has a range of meanings in English. The oldest of these is “composed of all sorts of persons and things” (as in “a promiscuous array of books” or “the promiscuous company at the tavern”). This meaning suggests a random assortment, not necessarily with negative implications.
Within the last few hundred years, promiscuous has added the usually negatively-tinged meanings “indiscriminate” (“promiscuous destruction by bombing”), “casual or careless” (“the president’s promiscuous dishonesty”), and of course, “not restricted to one sexual partner.”
Does this mean that the word itself is promiscuous? Not at all. It is not uncommon for English words to display this polysemous (“having multiple meanings”) character, and promiscuous is actually on the tidy end of the spectrum, as far as these things go. Some English words have dozens of meanings.
: having or involving many sexual partners
: including or involving too many people or things : not limited in a careful or proper way
What made you want to look up promiscuous? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).
without deliberation, pause, or delay
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