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

Essential Meaning of promiscuous

1 : having or involving many sexual partners a promiscuous man/woman promiscuous behavior promiscuous sex
2 formal : including or involving too many people or things : not limited in a careful or proper way He was promiscuous with his apologies. [=he apologized often for many different reasons] a promiscuous selection of poems

Full 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 But throughout his trial, Mr. Kelly’s legal team appeared to employ tactics that recalled an earlier era, attempting to paint the bevy of accusers who testified as jealous, fame-seeking, promiscuous liars. Emily Palmer, New York Times, 30 Sep. 2021 The play’s lead characters are Myrna, a chaste, ultra-conservative activist who eventually becomes a right-wing talk show host, and Myra, a promiscuous, rebellious, feminist, ultra-liberal anti-war activist who betrays her sister more than once. San Diego Union-Tribune, 24 Sep. 2021 Zhu thinks that promiscuous, highly interconnected protein networks might also promote the ability of organisms to acquire useful new capacities through evolution. Quanta Magazine, 16 Sep. 2021 An ideologically promiscuous Ukrainian firm boosted several competing political parties. New York Times, 25 July 2021 Being a beauty editor is by its very nature unavoidably promiscuous. April Long, Town & Country, 7 Aug. 2021 The pictures were posted to Twitter with fabricated stories accusing her of being drunk, promiscuous and allowing someone to bite her thigh. NBC News, 1 Aug. 2021 An ideologically promiscuous Ukrainian firm boosted several competing political parties. New York Times, 25 July 2021 An ideologically promiscuous Ukrainian firm boosted several competing political parties., 26 July 2021

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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Last Updated

13 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Promiscuous.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 Oct. 2021.

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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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