Polycule is a relatively new word from the world of polyamory. A blend of poly[amory] and [mole]cule, it refers to a graphical or physical model of a polyamorous relationship, and by extension a name for the group of people in that relationship.

The term isn’t in any major dictionaries (yet), but urbandictionary.com has an entry for it dating from 2015. That entry says:

A polycule can be as simple as a “V’"(A is dating both B and C, with their approval, but B and C are not dating each other) or a triangle (A, B, and C are all dating each other), but it can also get very complex. (Ex: A is dating B and C. B is dating A and D. C is dating A, E, and F. F is also dating G.)

When drawn out as a chart, these connections can look similar to a molecular structure—hence the name polycule.

polycule model

Such a chart or model resembles the ball-and-stick models used to show molecular structure, where each ball represents a person and the sticks the relationships with others in the polycule.

The earliest use of the term that I can find appears on the news website Vice.com from June 2012:

So, naturally, everyone at the event took some plasticine and straws and made “polycules,” little modelling-clay representations of the romantic/sexual relationships in their lives.

And I found this 2015 use of polycule to mean a particular network of polyamorous relationships:

This is something that hits home to me. I’ve seen abuse happen in my polycule.

I’m sure both of these uses can be antedated.


Heisey, Monica. “Exploring Polyamory with a Bunch of Horny Nerds.” Vice.com, 19 June 2012.

Urbandictionary.com, 15 March 2015, s. v. polycube.

Veaux, Franklin. “Some Thoughts on Community and Abuse.” Morethantwo.com, 11 February 2015.

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