Definition of harem in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈhɑːriːm/


1(In former times) the separate part of a Muslim household reserved for wives, concubines, and female servants: we were invited into the harem in the rear of the house
More example sentences
  • Among the striking objects on display are the wooden doors designed by the famous architect Sinan for the harem of the sultan Murad III in 1578, and measuring over 2.5 metres in height.
  • A theatre was constructed in the inner court of the harem, leaning against the windows of the apartments of the ladies, so that they can see the scene.
  • He travelled 1,500 miles across the desert to the Fifth Cataract, with his collapsible wooden camera, barrels of distilled water and a darkroom tent - which villagers thought housed a harem.
women's quarters
in Muslim societies, formerly seraglio
in India & Persia zenana;
in ancient Greece & Rome gynaeceum
rare haremlik, serai
1.1The women occupying a harem; the wives (or concubines) of a polygamous man: the Maharaja of Delhi had a very fine harem of 18 young and nubile wives
More example sentences
  • Since an imperial harem numbered more than 5,000 wives, concubines, and eunuch guards at the height of the dynasty, the scale of cooking was gargantuan.
  • The original builder of the Temple was born from the 27th or 28th wife of the harem of King David.
  • He married a woman called Isis, who was probably his first wife, and he also maintained large harems and kept subsidiary wives, who bore him many children.
1.2A group of female animals sharing a single mate: the dominant bulls gather a harem of anything from two to ten cows
More example sentences
  • A stallion starts a harem by abducting females from other herds, but the dominant stallions from which he steals do not give up their females easily.
  • With winter approaching, pronghorn males each gather small harems of females into gullies and valleys on the prairie, trying to keep them out of sight of their rivals while they woo them.
  • Gorilla groups are generally polygynous, consisting of one silverback male, his harem of several adult females, their young, and one or more subordinate males.
1.3chiefly derogatory A group of women perceived as centring around a particular man: rich men with their extensive harems of buxom blondes
More example sentences
  • His videos invariably feature a harem of voluptuous, bikini-clad lovelies positively gagging to get down with the self-styled Mr Lover Lover.
  • He has a live-in harem of international beauties.
  • He may date entire harems of beautiful women, drop heavy hints about drugs in interviews, and party at the Playboy Mansion, but he still makes this superstar sex symbol lark look like a total breeze.


Mid 17th century: from Arabic ḥaram, ḥarīm, literally 'prohibited, prohibited place' (hence 'sanctuary, women's quarters, women'), from ḥarama 'be prohibited'. Compare with haram.

  • This is from Arabic harīm which is literally ‘prohibited, prohibited place’, thus ‘sanctuary, women's quarters’ and, by extension, ‘women’.

Words that rhyme with harem

arum, harum-scarum, Sarum

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: harem

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