pro·​mis·​cu·​ous prə-ˈmi-skyə-wəs How to pronounce promiscuous (audio)
: having or involving many sexual partners : not restricted to one sexual partner or few sexual partners
: not restricted to one class, sort, or person : indiscriminate
education … cheapened through the promiscuous distribution of diplomasNorman Cousins
: casual, irregular
promiscuous eating habits
: composed of all sorts of persons or things
promiscuously adverb
promiscuousness noun

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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 Tech journalists, who were overwhelmingly men, implied that Allison was promiscuous. Taylor Lorenz, Rolling Stone, 13 Sep. 2023 The animosity toward Henrietta Maria took a familiar form, with critics tarring her as both cold and calculating and promiscuous and flighty. John Kelly, Washington Post, 9 Sep. 2023 The work showed that the abundance of vasopressin receptors in the brain’s reward circuits explained at least some of the behavioral differences between monogamous and promiscuous voles. Steven Phelps, Scientific American, 18 Jan. 2023 She’s been brazen, promiscuous, violent and drunk — and audiences have loved every moment of it. Jenelle Riley, Variety, 18 Aug. 2023 Buss, the flagrantly promiscuous playboy, peruses his scrapbook of romantic conquests at the end of the season premiere before he is frozen in nostalgia at a photo of Honey. Keith Nelson, Men's Health, 15 Aug. 2023 When they are represented, they’re often filled out with stereotypes: overly promiscuous, greedy, untrustworthy. USA TODAY, 14 Aug. 2023 Indeed, his defense rested on the argument that being promiscuous is not the same as being predatory. Mary McNamara, Los Angeles Times, 28 July 2023 And dozens of promiscuous rabbits are causing chaos in a Florida community. Elizabeth Robinson, NBC News, 20 July 2023 See More

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

Word History


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

First Known Use

1570, in the meaning defined at sense 4

Time Traveler
The first known use of promiscuous was in 1570

Dictionary Entries Near promiscuous

Cite this Entry

“Promiscuous.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Oct. 2023.

Kids Definition


pro·​mis·​cu·​ous prə-ˈmis-kyə-wəs How to pronounce promiscuous (audio)
: composed of all sorts of persons and things : miscellaneous
: not restricted to one person or class
especially : not restricted to one sexual partner
promiscuously adverb

Medical Definition


pro·​mis·​cu·​ous prə-ˈmis-kyə-wəs How to pronounce promiscuous (audio)
: not restricted to one sexual partner

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