Does poly have to mean ‘many’?

Once a month, for the last 15 months, I have been writing about various aspects of polyamory for a blogging project I set up called Poly Means Many. But, although poly means many, that doesn’t necessarily mean that all polyamorous people have many partners. After all, if you’re single, you don’t stop being straight. If you’re in a monogamous relationship with a woman, it doesn’t mean you’re no longer bisexual.

Poly folk can be single, or in a relationship with just one person, and they don’t necessarily stop being poly because of that. (For more ponderings on the subject of polyamory as an orientation, check out last November’s Poly Means Many topic: Orientation vs Choice.) Some people choose to be monogamous or non-monogamous depending on the preference of the partner they are currently in a relationship they are with, but many do feel like they were born this way or that they could never return to a monogamous lifestyle.

As Wikipedia helpfully explains, “polyamory is the practice, desire, or acceptance of having more than one intimate relationship at a time with the knowledge and consent of everyone involved.” This means that a single person who is looking for, or open to, having more that one romantic partner is polyamorous. (See and’s article on being single and polyamorous for more information.) It also means that someone who is in a relationship with one person is still polyamorous if they are looking for, or are open to, additional relationships.

The other key thing to note in this description is “acceptance of”. So, people who are in a relationship with someone who is poly may also use the label polyamorous, even if they do not want additional romantic connections themselves. In this sense, poly can mean ‘fewer than many’. I don’t think we’ll be changing the name of our blogging project any time soon though!

Poly Means Many: There are many aspects of polyamory. Each month, the PMM bloggers will write about their views on one of them. Links to all posts can be found at

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