Polygamy Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Polygamy, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Polygamy?

n. An illegal practice of having more than one wife or husband during the same time, more precisely having more than two spouses at the same time which is called bigamy.This is considered crime in most states and communities.

History and Meaning of Polygamy

Polygamy is a practice where a person is married to more than one partner at the same time. This concept has existed in various cultures throughout history, with references to polygamy found in ancient religious texts and historical records. In some societies, having multiple wives was considered a sign of wealth and power, since it was expensive to support multiple families. However, polygamy has also been a source of controversy and debate, with many people arguing that it is unfair to the spouses who are not the primary partner.

In the United States, polygamy is illegal in all 50 states, although there are some religious groups that still practice it. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon Church) officially abandoned the practice of polygamy in 1890, but there are still some Mormon fundamentalist groups that continue to practice it.

Examples of Polygamy

  • In the HBO series "Big Love," the protagonist Bill Henrickson is a polygamist who has three wives.
  • The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, a religious group based in Utah, practices polygamy.
  • In many parts of Africa, polygamy is still practiced in traditional societies.
  • The former leader of the Salt Lake City-based FLDS, Warren Jeffs, was convicted of facilitating the rape of a 12-year-old girl he had taken as his bride.

Legal Terms Similar to Polygamy

  • Bigamy: The act of marrying a person while still being legally married to someone else.
  • Adultery: The act of having a sexual relationship with someone who is not your spouse.
  • Concubinage: A practice in which a man cohabits with a woman who is not his wife, usually for financial or social reasons.
  • Monogamy: The practice of having only one spouse or partner at a time.