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The Collaborative International Dictionary

Polygyny \Po*lyg"y*ny\, n. [Poly- + Gr. ? woman, wife.] The state or practice of having several wives at the same time; marriage to several wives.
--H. Spenser.

Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary

1780, "condition of having many wives," from poly- "many" (see poly-) + Greek gyne "woman, wife" (see queen). Related: Polygynous.


n. The state or practice of having several wife at the same time; plurality of wives; marriage to several wives -


n. having more than one wife at a time




Polygyny (; from Neoclassical Greek πολυγυνία from πολύ- poly- "many", and γυνή gyne "woman" or "wife") is the most common and accepted form of polygamy, entailing the marriage of a man with several women. Most countries that permit polygamy are Muslim majority countries in which polygyny is the only form permitted. Polyandry is illegal in virtually every state of the world.

In some countries where polygamy is illegal, and sometimes even when legal, at times it is known for men to have one or more mistresses, whom they do not marry. The status of a mistress is not that of a wife, and any children born of such relationships were and some still are considered illegitimate and subject to legal disabilities.

Usage examples of "polygyny".

The natural foundation of the institution of monogamy is not any inherent viciousness in polygyny or polyandry, but the hard fact that men and women are born in about equal numbers.

On the other hand, women object to polyandry, because polyandry enables the best women to monopolize all the men, just as polygyny enables the best men to monopolize all the women.

But polygyny would condemn a great many men, and polyandry a great many women, to the celibacy of neglect.

Therefore polygyny and polyandry as a means of educating children fall to the ground, and with them, I think, must go the opinion which has been expressed by Gladstone and others, that an extension of divorce, whilst admitting many new grounds for it, might exclude the ground of adultery.

DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ORIENTAL AND OCCIDENTAL POLYGYNY It may now be asked why the polygynist nations have not gravitated to monogamy, like the latter-day saints of Salt Lake City.

Unlike the genetic unprofitability of polyandry for Tre-ba women, polygyny paid off well for nineteenth-century Mormon men, whose average lifetime output of children increased from a mere seven children for Mormon men with one wife to sixteen or twenty children for men with two or three wives, respectively, and to twenty-five children for Mormon church leaders, who averaged five wives.