promiscuous

adjective
pro·​mis·​cu·​ous | \ prə-ˈmi-skyə-wəs How to pronounce promiscuous (audio) \

Definition of promiscuous

1 : having or involving many sexual partners : not restricted to one sexual partner or few sexual partners
2 : not restricted to one class, sort, or person : indiscriminate education … cheapened through the promiscuous distribution of diplomas— Norman Cousins
3 : casual, irregular promiscuous eating habits
4 : composed of all sorts of persons or things

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Other Words from promiscuous

promiscuously adverb
promiscuousness noun

The Multiple Meanings of Promiscuous

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.

Examples of promiscuous in a Sentence

a promiscuous selection of poems since I just collect stamps that I happen to like, my collection is pretty promiscuous
Recent Examples on the Web To some ears, Doblin’s rhetoric about ending genocide and enlightening humanity through widespread use harkens back to Leary, the Harvard professor whose promiscuous dispensation of LSD led to his firing in 1963. Ben Harris, sun-sentinel.com, "Jewish psychedelics advocate working to turn club drug into legal medicine," 19 Nov. 2020 Carrie Buck, Virginia resident, had been deemed promiscuous after she was raped by a nephew of her foster family. Kate Baggaley, Popular Science, "America has a long history of forced sterilization," 18 Sep. 2020 Many are promiscuous, meaning that males and females mate with multiple partners. National Geographic, "Flying squirrels," 21 Aug. 2020 But ostriches in breeding season are relentlessly promiscuous, with both males and females seeking liaisons with multiple partners. National Geographic, "They may look goofy, but ostriches are nobody’s fool," 4 Aug. 2020 The Trump administration’s unnecessary and promiscuous trade fights with Europe, public goading of its leaders, and denigration of NATO are purely negative. Mark Helprin, National Review, "American Foreign and Defense Policy: Between Scylla and Charybdis," 16 Apr. 2020 The ultimate success of these efforts is an open question—the politics of risk are, after all, always promiscuous. Popular Science, "The 2001 anthrax attacks could have made the USPS more secure. Instead it’s more vulnerable than ever.," 14 Apr. 2020 What is his promiscuous use of spectacle and theatrics intended to mask? Jiwei Xiao, The New York Review of Books, "Into the Uncharted Zone: Diao Yinan’s ‘The Wild Goose Lake’," 14 Mar. 2020 Changing bird behavior Research also shows that birds are extremely promiscuous. Julian Avery, The Conversation, "It’s OK to feed wild birds – here are some tips for doing it the right way," 2 Mar. 2020

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.

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First Known Use of promiscuous

1570, in the meaning defined at sense 4

History and Etymology for promiscuous

Latin promiscuus, from pro- forth + miscēre to mix — more at pro-, mix

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Time Traveler for promiscuous

Time Traveler

The first known use of promiscuous was in 1570

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Statistics for promiscuous

Last Updated

29 Nov 2020

Cite this Entry

“Promiscuous.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/promiscuous. Accessed 5 Dec. 2020.

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More Definitions for promiscuous

promiscuous

adjective
How to pronounce promiscuous (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of promiscuous

disapproving
: having or involving many sexual partners
formal : including or involving too many people or things : not limited in a careful or proper way

promiscuous

adjective
pro·​mis·​cu·​ous | \ prə-ˈmis-kyə-wəs How to pronounce promiscuous (audio) \

Medical Definition of promiscuous

: not restricted to one sexual partner

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Comments on promiscuous

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