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

Americans recall the embassy hostage-taking of 1979-81 and promiscuous support for terrorism, some of which has cost American lives. The Economist, "Breaking the nuclear deal ratchets up the conflict between Iran and America," 28 June 2019 Krysten Ritter packed on ten pounds of muscle to play the hard-drinking, promiscuous private investigator with superpowers and a tragic past. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, "Review: Jessica Jones S3 is flawed but packs a powerful payoff in the end," 24 June 2019 In biochemistry parlance, these young proteins are promiscuous. Quanta Magazine, "A Surprise Source of Life’s Code," 18 Aug. 2015 Our male primate ancestors must have evolved from the typical indifferent and promiscuous mammalian father into a committed human dad. Alison Gopnik, WSJ, "For Gorillas, Being a Good Dad Is Sexy," 30 Nov. 2018 Eight years later, Liam is a stadium-filling country music star, as well as a promiscuous drunk. Glenn Kenny, New York Times, "Review: In ‘Forever My Girl,’ a Romance Resumes After a Long Break," 19 Jan. 2018 Considering the authors’ lifestyles, the books read as less judgmental of their promiscuous female characters. Alice Bolin, Longreads, "The Daughter as Detective," 26 June 2018 The descriptive text is quite graphic, mentioning fetish acts and featuring rambling stories that paint women as promiscuous. Chris Morris, Fortune, "Walmart Was Once Again Forced to Pull an Offensive Shirt From Its Website," 12 July 2018 To understand Dawson’s work it’s helpful to check out the scope of her promiscuous collaborations. John Adamian, courant.com, "Britney Spears, Tory Lanez, Kimya Dawson: Seven Concert Highlights," 7 July 2018

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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Statistics for promiscuous

Last Updated

15 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for promiscuous

The first known use of promiscuous was in 1570

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More Definitions for promiscuous

promiscuous

adjective

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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