Polyamorous Vocabulary for Beginners

vocabulaire polyamoureux

Because it comes with a whole new set of human connections and life experiences, polyamory has a vocabulary of its own to talk about these concepts, emotions and events. Plus, for some reason, polyamorists seem to love to invent new words! Which can be a little bit confusing at the beginning. But fear not! Hypatia’s page will tell you everything you need to know about those mysterious words!

Relationship Anarchy:

A philosophy or practice of refusing any sort of hierarchy between the relationships in one’s life. Relationships are not limited by rules other than those created by mutual agreement by the persons in the relationship. Relationship anarchists make no formal distinction between different relationships, be they romantic, sexual or platonic: All relationships are considered important and treated as such. Relationship anarchists reject couple’s privilege.


A feeling of joy about the happiness of one’s partners’ relationships with other people. Compersion is considered the opposite of jealousy. To learn more about the fascinating subject of compersion, and how you can develop and integrate this feeling in your emotional life, read my book on the topic!

New Relationship Energy (NRE):

A powerful sense of excitement and excitement, common at the beginning of a new relationship, lasting from a few months to a few years. NRE is exhilarating for the people experiencing it, but often scary for the partners who see their loved ones completely swept away by a new person. Read my series of articles on NRE here.

Hierarchical Polyamory:

An arrangement to maintain a priority to the so-called primary relationship. The primary partner will have to remain “more important” than the new partners, considered secondary (what this means and how this is enforced varies from one couple to another). If a secondary relationship becomes a risk for the primary relationship, the secondary relationship or the needs of the secondary partner are sacrificed to preserve the primary relationship. This type of commitment is sometimes accompanied by a veto right. While they tend to be the norm among formerly monogamous newbie-polyamorists or poly-curious, hierarchical arrangements are controversial in the polyamorist community, as they are perceived as unethical by many people. Hierarchy tends to disenfranchise people from their right to decide what they want in their own relationship, as their decision power is subordinated to that of another person/relationship. Even if, in most cases, the rules are clear and everyone is aware of what they are agreeing to, the result of being limited in what one can or cannot do with their partner is always one or many partner(s) hurting. For this reason, seasoned polyamorists tend to not agree to such arrangements and not get involved with couples who prioritize their relationship over another. They also tend to not impose their own hierarchy on others. They believe in self-determination and prefer to be – and let their partners be – sovereign over their lives, relationships, decisions, actions and bodies.


Bisexual woman ready to enter a triad with an existing couple. This name has emerged because so many couples (mostly beginners, often called « unicorn hunters ») seek such a woman to add to their relationship, and realize that women who are willing to play this role are very rare if not impossible to find. The word centaur has been proposed as a male equivalent. Read more here.

Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT):

Arrangement where the couple is open on the condition that each partner is not informed of sexual encouters happening outside of the couple. This type of non-monogamy does not qualify as polyamory as polyamory requires all partners to be informed and consenting.


The partners of my partners.


A society, social structure or institution that postulates monogamy as the norm, and that alternative amorous configurations are deviant or non-existent. For example, in a mononormative society, you are allowed to invite your +1 to a wedding, a party or a mundane event. Polyamorous people who would invite two or more partners is not accounted for.


Refers to someone who is polyamorous but who is not available for new relationships due to the number of existing partners or a life situation (work, illness, pregnancy or young children, travel, problems in a existing relationships) or simply for lack of time.

Fluid Bonding:

Practice involving the exchange of genital fluids, as in the case of unprotected sex. Agreements to protect the sexual health of participants. While fluid bonding is not a subject specific to polyamorists, the multiplication of partners makes it necessary to address matters around sexual health and safer sex practices very early on in a relationship. Polyamorists tend to demand a high level of self-responsibility and accountability of their partners. Learn more about safer sex here.

Solo Polyamory:

An approach to polyamory where the individual is the basic unit of relationships, as opposed to couples. People who identify as solo polyamorists greatly value autonomy and self-determination. They often consider themselves as their primary partner. Solo polyamorists usually think in terms of relationship escalator (see definition below), and don’t wish to share a home with their partner-s. Solo polyamory can be lived in hierarchical or non-hierarchical configurations.


As sad as it is that such a word had to exist, polyagony is the one we use when polyamory goes very wrong. There are a few reasons why a person might end up is such a desperate state. Jealousy is a frequent cause. Multiple or simultaneous breakups (due to the higher number of relationships) and social stigma and rejection related to prejudices against polyamory are also reasons why polyamorists sometimes experience situations beyond their ability to cope adequately.


Made from the word “molecule”, is the group formed by oneself, our partners, and our metamours.

Relationship escalator:

The default set of expectations for intimate relationships in society. Partners follow progressive steps towards the goal, which is a permanently monogamous (sexually and romantically) cohabiting marriage. The steps to get there are well defined : meeting, dating, committing, marriage, buying property, having children and transmitting legacy to future generations. The Escalator is the standard by which most people gauge whether a relationship is significant or not. Polyamorists tend to think less in terms of relationship escalator, either because it doesn’t suit their needs, or because they already have one or more relationships in which they are committed to such goals, and want something different for other relationships.


A polyamorous arrangement in which three people are in a relationship to each other.


A polyamorous arrangement involving three people where one person is in a relationship with two partners who are not involved with each other.


An agreement that gives one partner the power to terminate their partner’s relationships or to deny certain types of activities with their other partners. Highly unrecommended, as it undermines the self-determination of individuals and perpetuates codependency.