polygyny


polygyny
/peuh lij"euh nee/, n.
1. the practice or condition of having more than one wife at one time.
2. (among male animals) the habit or system of having two or more mates, either simultaneously or successively.
3. (among social insects) the condition of having two or more functioning queens in a colony.
4. Bot. the state or condition of having many pistils or styles. Cf. monogyny.
[1770-80; < Gk polygýn(aios) having many wives (see POLY-, GYN-) + -Y3]

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      marriage in which two or more women share a husband. Sororal polygyny, in which the cowives are sisters, is often the preferred form because sisters are thought to be more mutually supportive and less argumentative than nonsiblings. A typical rule for sororal polygyny is that the eldest girl in a family marries first and that as they come of age her younger sisters join her as cowives; this was a practice in at least 40 Native American cultures during the 19th century.

      Polygyny has several economic, social, and health advantages over monogamy. In most cultures, women contribute significantly to the wealth of the household and can thus materially benefit from the labour of an additional spouse. Where mortality rates of men consistently exceed those of women, polygyny can be seen as a resolution to the “deficit” of males and the “surplus” of females.

      Socially, cowives and their children may accrue enhanced status and prestige as members of a large (and therefore inherently prosperous) household. In societies that provide no institutionalized role for unmarried women, the status of a cowife may be preferable to that of a single woman.

      Polygyny can also have a positive effect on maternal and child health. During postpartum recovery, for instance, cowives can usually rely upon each other to perform the most strenuous work of the household. By creating opportunities for sexual companionship among the other members of the marriage, polygyny also supports the once common expectation that women will remain sexually abstinent for two or more years beginning in the last months of pregnancy (or upon parturition). This practice fosters adequate birth spacing for the mother to recover from the physiological and emotional stresses associated with pregnancy, lactation, and the care of a young child.

      Despite certain advantages to both sexes, polygynous families can be fraught with bickering and sexual jealousy. In order to dampen strife, many groups accord seniority to one wife, usually the first. Marital harmony may be additionally fostered by customs that valorize the institution, restrict polygyny to the sororal form, or—especially in matrilineal cultures—support easy and recrimination-free divorce.

      In most polygynous cultures, some people choose monogamy. This is often explained as a way to avoid marital strife or the expense of supporting several cowives and a multitude of children or as a result of a dearth of eligible or willing women.

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Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Polygyny — (which comes from neo Greek: πολύ poly many + γυνή gyny woman ) is a specific form of polygamy, where a male individual is recognized to have more than one female sexual partner or wife at the same time. It is distinguished from a man having… …   Wikipedia

  • 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. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • polygyny — polygyny. См. полигиния. (Источник: «Англо русский толковый словарь генетических терминов». Арефьев В.А., Лисовенко Л.А., Москва: Изд во ВНИРО, 1995 г.) …   Молекулярная биология и генетика. Толковый словарь.

  • polygyny — (n.) 1780, having many wives, from poly many (see POLY (Cf. poly )) + Gk. gyne woman, wife (see QUEEN (Cf. queen)). Related: Polygynous …   Etymology dictionary

  • polygyny — ► NOUN ▪ polygamy in which a man has more than one wife. DERIVATIVES polygynous adjective. ORIGIN from Greek gun woman …   English terms dictionary

  • polygyny — [pə lij′ə nē, pōlij′ə nē] n. [< ModL polygynia < POLY + Gr gynē, woman, wife: see GYNO ] 1. the state or practice of having two or more wives at the same time 2. Bot. the fact of having many styles or pistils 3. Zool. the mating of a male… …   English World dictionary

  • polygyny — A term denoting the concurrent marriage of one man with two or more women. This is not uncommon and is widespread in human societies. Where the women involved are sisters it is termed sororal polygyny. Some writers appear to use polygamy rather… …   Dictionary of sociology

  • polygyny — n. [Gr. polys, many; gyne, female] 1. The mating of a male with more than one female; see monogamy. 2. (ARTHROPODA: Insecta) In Hymenoptera, the coexistance of several to many queens in the same colony. a. Primary polygyny: Two or more queens… …   Dictionary of invertebrate zoology

  • polygyny — noun Date: 1780 the state or practice of having more than one wife or female mate at a time compare polyandry, polygamy …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • polygyny — a male mating with more than one female …   Dictionary of ichthyology


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