A polyglot is someone who can speak many languages; something that is polychromatic has many colours, and polysemy is a word or phrase with multiple meanings

If polygamy is having more than one wife or husband at the same time, but a polygynist refers only to a man who has many wives. If polyandry is having more than one husband and a polygamist is usually a man who has more than one wife at the same time.

What do you call a "multiple father" or "multiple mother", someone who has more than one child with the same partner? And what do you call a parent who has two or more children with two or more different partners?

  • 2
    You call the parent a parent. Their children who share only one parent in common are half-siblings, of course.
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Mar 16, 2015 at 16:36
  • 4
    It sounds ridiculous, but logically, someone who has more than one child ought to be polytecnic (from Greek τέκνον ‘child, son’, unlike polytechnic, which is from Greek τέχνη ‘skill, art, craft’). If you want the single/multiple partner bit as well, you're looking at rather horrible compounds like polyhomogamotecnic and polypolygamotecnic or something like that. Most off-putting. (It seems the Modern Greek word for someone who has many children is actually πολυτέκνος!) Commented Mar 16, 2015 at 16:40
  • 1
    There may just not be a good term for it. The children from one parent and multiple 'spouses' are half-siblings. The non-parental spouse is a step-parent. But for the center person (the one with many spouses and children from each one), there's no special label for that person.
    – Mitch
    Commented Mar 16, 2015 at 17:21
  • 1
    It appears that the definitions of multiplicity are used from the point of view of the children rather than that of the parents. A father or a mother with sons from different partners are still called fathers and mothers. Children with more than one father or one mother are cases of multiple parenthood. " ... law to investigate surrogate motherhood and multiple parenthood families." government.nl/news/2013/11/19/…
    – user66974
    Commented Mar 16, 2015 at 19:30
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    @Mari-LouA: Probly not in English yet. Yet -- give "Modern Family" another generation and there might be. But there are too many possible variations for a simple_poly_- compound to stand for everything one might want to represent. Isn't that always the problem? Commented Mar 16, 2015 at 20:14

6 Answers 6


Though I am disgusted at the Greek-Latin lexical miscegenation, a parent of multiple children is polyprogenitive, from the Latin prōgeniēs, 'to beget'. From The Embodied Female:

Co-wives and surrogacy exist since Biblical times. For instance, resenting the four sons her fertile sister “gave” their common husband Jacob, barren Rachel gives him her maid Bilhah as surrogate, and adopts the two sons by this union. Emotions driving these transactions are unaccounted by Freudian chains of phallocentric symbolic equations slip-sliding between baby = penis or Darwinian notions of polyprogenitive male desire to spread his sperm. Neither can egg-exchange be entirely construed by Kleinian gynaecratic accounts of reparative urges to undo unconscious phantasies of raiding the archaic mother's envied fertile body for the babies within.

Technically, and although it doesn't fit the poly- mold requested, a person with more than one child would be multiprogenic (or multi-progenic). (The Greek equivalent, as Janus pointed out, is polytecnic, from τέκνον meaning 'child, son'.)

Similarly, a person who has children with multiple partners, according to social scientists, practices multipartnered fertility.

  • I like this answer, If I hadn't honed in on the Greek, I might have gone the Latin route: multiparty-progenic ;-)
    – ScotM
    Commented Mar 17, 2015 at 12:57
  • polytecnic is too similar to polytechnic, not your fault, I know. I did like the "multipartnered fertility" expression, and I think I'll be using that in future.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Mar 17, 2015 at 13:05
  • I think it's a little unfair that you now add polyprogenitive after I "discovered" polyphiloprogenetive they are practically identical: Your original answer had "polytecnic"; "multiprogenic" and "multipartnered fertiliyty
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Mar 18, 2015 at 16:29
  • I think it's a little unfair to now tag on polyprogenetive in your answer, after I posted polyphiloprogenetive, they are virtually the same (mine has "love" though!). This now makes it your fourth suggestion: 1) polytecnic; 2) multiprogenic; 3) multipartnered fertility; and now polyprogenetive. tsk, tsk, I said no more than three! ;). If you had posted this polyprothingy earlier, I wouldn't have scoured interminable lists of poly-words today. The green tick goes to me!
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Mar 18, 2015 at 16:36
  • I do nevertheless I like your answer. :)))
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Mar 18, 2015 at 16:36


In the simple case, a couple stayed married and had lots of kids (back when there was little else to do for fun, and no reliable means of contraception) there was no need to have a word for father or mother of a large family, as it was not unusual. Even now, this is the norm in some areas of society (Catholics and Mormons are stereotypical examples). A married woman who gets pregnant as often as possible is referred to as barefoot and pregnant or sometimes a baby factory or a breeder. These are all derogatory.

In traditional terms, when monogamy, cohabitation and marriage were assumed, serial partnerings resulted in step-fathers, step-mothers, half-brothers and half-sisters.

Outside of that paradigm of matrimony, nomenclature gets a bit cloudy (although half-brother and half-sister are still accurate). note: There's a certain amount of inherent asymmetry, in that you can't always prove who is the biological father (or used to couldn't) but there is rarely any doubt as to who is the biological mother.

If one woman has children by different fathers whom she did not marry, and does not live with, those men are baby daddies to their respective offspring, regardless of the number of children.

If one man fathers children by different mothers whom he did not marry, and does not live with, those women are baby mommas to his offspring, regardless of number of children.

If a man sires many children, each with a different baby momma, I would call him a seed-sower (i.e., he has been sowing wild oats.) Origin of phrase "sow wild oats"

If a woman bears many children, each conceived with a different baby daddy, you could call her a "serial baby momma". (That's derogatory, but not so derogatory as "slut". Of course, a [slut/ ho/ promiscuous woman/ sexually active female] might have lots of partners but no babies)

If a "baby daddy" disappears (whether by his choice or that of the baby momma), and plays no part in bringing up his offspring, he becomes what was once called an absentee father. Such a man is in legal terms a biological father, or colloquially, biological dad (sometimes more bluntly referred to as a sperm donor.) If the state keeps up with him and can keep him paying child support, he is a child-support payer. If not, he is a deadbeat dad.

If a man maintains a polygynous household, where multiple children born of several different wives are raised as his own, he is the patriarch of that family. Brigham Young, for example, was such a patriarch. (polygamy is no longer legal, nor sanctioned by the LDS church, but a few isolated splinter groups still practice it.)

I don't know of similar examples from polyandry, but I suppose by parallelism that the one mother in a polyandrous household with multiple husbands would be called the matriarch.

  • +1 This is a good useful answer, I have already heard of the terms baby daddies and baby mommas but never child-support payer. Could you highlight these terms in bold, please? I am however looking for a more formal term, and I'm not 100% certain a BrEng speaker would know what baby momma/mum/mamma or baby daddies are. I suppose I could use the AmEng and then explain that.... I strongly dislike serial baby momma it sounds very derogative, and I would not use it.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Mar 17, 2015 at 8:18
  • Interestingly the term baby factory can also be referred to a man who "makes" babies.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Mar 17, 2015 at 8:46
  • @mari-lou is not "baby factory" referring to the house that was raided?
    – Erich
    Commented Mar 17, 2015 at 13:05
  • @erich I suppose so, but it is "run" by the father, although there are "nannies" looking after his off spring.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Mar 17, 2015 at 13:07

With a single partner, either a man or a woman could be called a polypedonist, or more succinctly, polypedist:

From ancient Greek:

  • πολύ (poly) = many
  • παιδίον (paidion) = small child under training
  • -ιστής (-istes) = active agent

One with many children.

Pedo- is the English root used in pediatrics and and pedophile, from the masculine παις, son, and the neuter παιδόν, including both male and female children. With the suffix -ist, the final o is normally dropped, but adding the n to form pedon- or adding an a to form paed- would both disambiguate from the ped of foot. From etymonline:

before vowels ped-, word-forming element meaning "boy, child," from Greek pedo-, comb. form of pais "boy, child," especially a son, from PIE root *peu- "small, little, few, young" (see few (adj.)). The British form paed- is better because it avoids confusion with ped-.

With multiple partners, either a man or a woman could be called a polykoinoteknist:

From ancient Greek:

  • πολύ (poly) = many

  • κοινός (koinos) = shared in common

  • τέκνον (teknon) = offspring

  • -ιστής (-istes) = active agent

One with many shared offspring.

The word παιδόν carried deeper connotations of ongoing nurture, while τέκνον generally referred to the physical offspring of any creature. If one really wanted to tweak the multi-partner arrangement, the designation could be altered to polykoitoteknist:

From ancient Greek:

  • πολύ (poly) = many

  • κοιτός (koitos) = marriage bed

  • τέκνον (teknon) = offspring

  • -ιστής (-istes) = active agent

One with many bedded offspring.

  • 3
    Are those real words? A Google search shows nothing for either one. Commented Mar 17, 2015 at 2:23
  • 1
    I know this is an English language site, and I did ask for a "poly" word, but I don't know any ancient Greek at all. I tried looking up paidon, the nearest I found was pais. Is paidon plural form?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Mar 17, 2015 at 7:48
  • 3
    @Mari Paidon isn't really a form at all, but paido- is the inflectional stem of pais, and Greek sometimes inserts extra n’s in compounds and desinences here and there. Here, I'd say polyp(a)edist instead, though, and I'd say the second one would be polykoinoteknist (or polykoinotecnist), too. And yes, koine is only two syllables. Commented Mar 17, 2015 at 9:49
  • 3
    I’m still not sure where you’re getting this neuter παιδόν from … do you mean the diminutive παιδίον (which is neuter)? Παιδόν is not in LSJ or any other dictionary in the Perseus library, nor can I find any references to it anywhere online. Παῖς, of course, is grammatically masculine, but refers to children of either gender. Commented Mar 17, 2015 at 23:19
  • 1
    It is παιδίον, not παιδόν. Although παῖς seems to have originally referred to just boys, it did expand to include girls too. This answer seems to be an interesting exercise in word-smithing, but polyprogenic is the direct Greek solution. Kudos for the play on κοινός and κοιτός.
    – Good A.M.
    Commented Mar 18, 2015 at 17:00

The closest poly-word that I found which has documented usage is the following: polyphiloprogenitive

adjective: Extremely prolific.

From Greek poly- (many) + philo- (loving) + Latin progenitive (producing offspring), from pro- (toward) + past participle of gignere (to beget). Earliest documented use: 1919, in a poem by T.S. Eliot.

"Polyphiloprogenitive Joe Fallon, the needy, breedy father of seventeen, or was it nineteen? I was never sure, any more than Joe himself."
Aidan Higgins; Dog Days; Secker & Warburg; 1998.

"All spring and summer my parents ricochet from garden to garden, mulching, watering, pulling up the polyphiloprogenitive weeds, 'until', my mother says, 'I'm bent over like a coat hanger."
Margaret Atwood; Bluebeard's Egg; McClelland & Stewart; 1983.

Alternatively the Latin term philoprogenitive

  1. producing offspring, especially abundantly; prolific.
  2. of, relating to, or characterized by love for offspring, especially one's own.
    1860-65; philo- + progenitive

Sources: A.Word.A.Day; Phrontistery; Worthless Word For The Day aka WWFTD; Wiktionary, Random House Dictionary and Merriam-Webster

  • 1
    +1 for usage example, yuck for it being a mutant helleno-romantic. and if that's not a word yet, it should be.
    – Erich
    Commented Mar 18, 2015 at 11:55
  • -1 Sorry, but that is not the word that answers your question. I considered answering with both philoprogenitive and T.S.Eliots 'nonce' word polyphiloprogenitive but didn't because they both only mean prolific, neither meets the question's criteria for a word meaning bearing children with multiple partners.
    – Frank
    Commented Mar 18, 2015 at 18:20
  • @Frank you should have posted it as an answer, I would have awarded it as being the closest and good-enough answer. At least it is well-documented, and it's more pronounceable than ScotM's "nonce" suggestion. Did you remember to downvote all the other answers posted too for not answering the question? I guess not...
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Mar 18, 2015 at 23:32
  • No, I didn't downvote the other questions because they made an attempt to come up with a word that fitted your question as it originally was, now the question if much simpler parent with more than child you could have polyparous, polytocous or polycarpous.
    – Frank
    Commented Mar 19, 2015 at 3:29
  • When I downvoted your answer I hadn't noticed that you'd changed the question to one where the word prolific (in the sense of breeding) is a suitable word so polyphiloprogenitive is a reasonable answer to the edited question, so I would reverse my downvote if I could, but I am prevented from doing so by the system until the answer is edited.
    – Frank
    Commented Mar 19, 2015 at 4:35

I would leverage polyphiloprogenitive, given in Mari-Lou's answer. But regarding the concern that it doesn't address the multiple reproductive partners, I would coin polyamoroprogenitive.

This combines polyamorous

The practice, state or ability of having more than one sexual loving relationship at the same time, with the full knowledge and consent of all partners involved. (Wikipedia)

and progenitive

capable of having offspring; reproductive (Dictionary.com)


It seems to me that the proffered polyphiloprogenitive satisfies both the "multiple partners" (poly philo) and the "multiple offspring" parts of the original question, without needing to stray into amor.

If one insists on purity-of-lexicon and is content to stay with Greek, then the term polyphiloteknic works perfectly. The k helps to distinguish the "offspring" part from the homophonic technic.

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