[hair-uh m, har-]
See more synonyms for harem on Thesaurus.com
  1. the part of a Muslim palace or house reserved for the residence of women.
  2. the women in a Muslim household, including the mother, sisters, wives, concubines, daughters, entertainers, and servants.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
Sometimes ha·ram [hair-uh m, har-] /ˈhɛər əm, ˈhær-/, ha·reem, ha·rim [hah-reem] /hɑˈrim/.

Origin of harem

First recorded in 1625–35, harem is from the Arabic word 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.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for harem

purdah, seraglio, serai, zenana

Examples from the Web for harem

Contemporary Examples of harem

Historical Examples of harem

British Dictionary definitions for harem


hareem (hɑːˈriːm)

  1. the part of an Oriental house reserved strictly for wives, concubines, etc
  2. a Muslim's wives and concubines collectively
  3. a group of female animals of the same species that are the mates of a single male

Word Origin for harem

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

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