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[hair-uh m, har-] /ˈhɛər əm, ˈhær-/
the part of a Muslim palace or house reserved for the residence of women.
the women in a Muslim household, including the mother, sisters, wives, concubines, daughters, entertainers, and servants.
Animal Behavior. a social group of females, as elephant seals, accompanied or followed by one fertile male who denies other males access to the group.
Facetious: Sometimes Offensive. a group of women associated in any way with one man or household:
I really resent it when our boss refers to us as his harem, though he's trying to be funny.
Also, haram, hareem, harim.
Origin of harem
1625-35; < Arabic harīm harem, literally, forbidden
Usage note
In the meaning “a group of women associated with one man,” harem is used for humorous effect. But this sense is sometimes perceived as insulting because it implies that the man collects women like objects. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for harem
  • Best was the first sports-media star with his harem and fashion lines.
  • His innovations included the chemise, harem pants and pantaloons and the popular lampshade skirt.
  • Menstrual synchrony limits harem fertility, discouraging the keeping of harems.
  • Tourists, almost invariably wearing colorful harem pants, brush shoulders with locals.
  • Oils were used by the king, the queen, and the members of the harem.
  • In the fall, the woods fill with the noise of bugling bull elks attracting a harem.
  • The bull is huge, his horns no ornament, his harem his alone because he's gored the only slightly less impressive opposition.
  • The harem image, while indirect, is also in keeping with the idea of an enclosed space.
  • Apparently he plans to go through the harem this way.
  • They're in a setting of an oriental harem, in a large oval room with divans and a lot of cushions around the walls.
British Dictionary definitions for harem


/ˈhɛərəm; hɑːˈriːm/
the part of an Oriental house reserved strictly for wives, concubines, etc
a Muslim's wives and concubines collectively
a group of female animals of the same species that are the mates of a single male
Word Origin
C17: from Arabic harīm forbidden (place)
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for harem

1630s, from Turkish harem, from Arabic haram "wives and concubines," originally "women's quarters," literally "something forbidden or kept safe," from root of harama "he guarded, forbade."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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