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 Larremore, an applied mathematician, was introduced to its promiscuous habits while doing postdoctoral research at what is now the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Quanta Magazine, "Networks Untangle Malaria’s Deadly Shuffle," 15 Oct. 2015 The cast includes Kavi Ladnier as the elephant therapist; Justice Quinn, who voices the elephant; Tasha Ames as Lilly’s unregenerately promiscuous sister; and Brady Amaya as Richard’s bereaved son, whose mother was recently killed. Los Angeles Times, "A 35-year-old virgin finally gets her man, but ‘Miss Lilly’ needs more than that," 11 Oct. 2019 Dunn said of the stereotypes of bisexuals as promiscuous and untrustworthy. NBC News, "Gaby Dunn on embracing her polyamorous bisexuality and why she loves 'The Bachelor'," 16 Aug. 2019 My faith has been questioned by thousands who don’t know my heart, and my transparency with my decisions has labeled me promiscuous. Marie Claire, "Gigi Hadid and Tyler Cameron Finally Photographed Together Together," 14 Aug. 2019 But wider access to pornography doesn’t mean adolescents are more promiscuous. New York Times, "The ‘Euphoria’ Teenagers Are Wild. But Most Real Teenagers Are Tame.," 23 June 2019 During the slavery period, the exploitation, rape and abuse of black women were justified because they were depicted as promiscuous. Crystal D. Carter, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Half of black girls report being sexually coerced. There are ways we can help protect them.," 16 Aug. 2019 Declaim the crime of promiscuous social arrangements: Eight Persons Occupy One Bedroom. Longreads, "A Minor Figure," 20 July 2019 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

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

16 Dec 2019

Cite this Entry

“Promiscuous.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 29 January 2020.

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More Definitions for promiscuous


How to pronounce promiscuous (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of promiscuous

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


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

What made you want to look up promiscuous? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to assert without proof or before proving

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