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polygamypoligamia (lat.); Polygamie (ger.)

  • 1) The practice or custom of having more than one spouse at the same time. Contrasted with monogamy. (OED 2011)
    5th cent.

    quae iste quasi sua profert, et alio iam calumniante purgata sunt, ut praeteream contra iouinianum uolumina, in quibus dolet uirginitatem nuptiis et nuptias digamiae et digamiam polygamiae esse praelatam.

    Hieronymus (c. 400 AD). In Hieremiam prophetam libri vi: praef.

    11th cent.

    gaudens poligamia secundi tertii et etiam quarti mariti non refutat copulam ex multis maritis

    Sigebertus Gemblacensis (11th cent.). Vita Wicberti Gemblacensis (ed. G.H. Pertz, 1848, 507-516): 508.

    12th cent.

    bigamia vel poligamia

    Petrus Cantor (12th cent.). Summa quae dicitur Verbum adbreviatum (textus conflatus): I, 27.

    Poligamie, that is, the hauing of many wyues to gyther is forbydden
    Sarcerius, E. (1538). Loci aliqvot commvnes et theologici (Common Places of Script, transl. by R. Taverner, London 1538): ccxiv.
    polygamy [...] the having more wives than one
    Madan, M. (1780). Thelyphthora: Or, A Treatise on Female Ruin, vol. 2: 90.
  • 2) The fact or state of an animal's having more than one mate of the opposite sex. (OED 2011)

    Polygamia dicitur matrimonium personæ unius cum pluribus contractum. In specie Polygynia vocatur matrimonium unius maris cum pluribus fœminis contractum; Polyandria vero matrimonium unius fœminæ cum pluribus maribus initum. […] Monogamia, quæ polygamiae opponitur, appellatur matrimonium unius maris cum una fœmina contractum

    Wolff, C. (1747). Jus naturæ methodo scientifica pertractatum, vol. 7: 194.


    Columbae, Passeres, aliæque aves, ubi monogamia obtinet, incubando alternas vices observant, nam in Polygamia mares vix curam habent natorum ullam.

    Linnaeus, C. (1749). Oeconomia naturae: 32 (§xiv). 


    Pigeons, small birds, and other birds, which pair, sit by turns; but where polygamy prevails, the males scarcely take any care of the young

    Stillingfleet, B. (transl.) (1759). Oeconomy of Nature. In: Miscellaneous Tracts Relating to Natural History, Husbandry, and Physick: 77.

    The males of polygamous birds neglect their young
    Pennant, T. (1773). Genera of Birds: xvii.

    Viele Vögel leben in Polygamie, und andere vermischen sich ohne alle weitere eheliche Verbindung mit einander.

    Blumenbach, J.F. (1779). Handbuch der Naturgeschichte: 164.


    The dog lives in polygamy, like the cock, bull and stallion.

    Spurzheim, J.G. (1815). The Physiognomical System of Drs. Gall and Spurzheim: 372.


    [some Gallinaceous birds] are polygamous, or have a number of females associating with one male

    Mudie, R. (1834). The Feathered Tribes of the British Islands, vol. 1: 24.

    dans le règne animal [...] la polygamie, chez plusieurs espèces, a lieu, tandis que c’est la polyandrie parmi la plupart des plantes
    Virey, J.J. (1835). Philosophie de l’histoire naturelle: 326.

    Three starlings not rarely frequent the same nest; but whether this is a case of polygamy or polyandry has not been ascertained

    Darwin, C. (1871). The Descent of Man, vol 1: 269.