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

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 Sonny is famously, even disastrously, hot headed and promiscuous. Mark Feeney,, 7 July 2022 There’s also a very typical stereotype that gay men are promiscuous and flirty and out at the club. Amy Shoenthal, Forbes, 24 June 2022 DeLillo takes a promiscuous approach to history, placing fictional Everymen alongside real-life bigwigs like Frank Sinatra and J. Edgar Hoover. Alice Mcdermott, New York Times, 22 June 2022 Female creatures are just as promiscuous, competitive, aggressive and dynamic as their male counterparts and play an equal role in driving evolutionary change, according to author Lucy Cooke. Katie Hunt, CNN, 18 June 2022 Some praised Madonna for her response to the AIDS crisis, while others seized on allegations from a 1991 biography that claimed Nancy Reagan was notoriously promiscuous during her career as a Hollywood actress. Grayson Quay, The Week, 14 June 2022 Male animals are aggressively promiscuous, but their female counterparts are coy, choosy and chaste. Katie Hunt, CNN, 12 June 2022 This soft-voiced, promiscuous bird ekes out a living in tidal marshes. Maddie Bender, Smithsonian Magazine, 20 May 2022 There's so much going on behind the surface and as to why Malva does become promiscuous and does meet with a lot of men, there's a very specific reason for it all. Maureen Lee Lenker,, 11 Apr. 2022 See More

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.

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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The first known use of promiscuous was in 1570

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Last Updated

9 Jul 2022

Cite this Entry

“Promiscuous.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for promiscuous


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

Medical Definition of promiscuous

: not restricted to one sexual partner

More from Merriam-Webster on promiscuous

Nglish: Translation of promiscuous for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of promiscuous for Arabic Speakers


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