- (broadly) any of the diverse forms of interpersonal union established in various parts of the world to form a familial bond that is recognized legally, religiously, or socially, granting the participating partners mutual conjugal rights and responsibilities and including, for example, opposite-sex marriage, same-sex marriage, plural marriage, and arranged marriage: Anthropologists say that some type of marriage has been found in every known human society since ancient times.See Word Story at the current entry.
- Also called opposite-sex marriage.the form of this institution under which a man and a woman have established their decision to live as husband and wife by legal commitments, religious ceremonies, etc.See also traditional marriage(def 2).
- this institution expanded to include two partners of the same gender, as in same-sex marriage; gay marriage.
- the state, condition, or relationship of being married; wedlock: They have a happy marriage.
- the legal or religious ceremony that formalizes the decision of two people to live as a married couple, including the accompanying social festivities: to officiate at a marriage.
- a relationship in which two people have pledged themselves to each other in the manner of a husband and wife, without legal sanction: trial marriage.
- any close or intimate association or union: the marriage of words and music in a hit song.
- a formal agreement between two companies or enterprises to combine operations, resources, etc., for mutual benefit; merger.
- a blending or matching of different elements or components: The new lipstick is a beautiful marriage of fragrance and texture.
- Cards. a meld of the king and queen of a suit, as in pinochle.Compare royal marriage.
- a piece of antique furniture assembled from components of two or more authentic pieces.
- Obsolete. the formal declaration or contract by which act a man and a woman join in wedlock.
Origin of marriage
Multiple wives, for example, proliferate in the Bible. King Solomon famously had 700, although most were apparently instruments of political alliance rather than participants in royal romance. (For that, he had 300 concubines.)
Marriage can be sanctioned legally or religiously, and typically confers upon married people a special legal status with particular rights, benefits, and obligations. Access to this special status has changed over time. For example, the U.S. Supreme Court legalized interracial marriage as recently as 1967, while same-sex marriage, which for some time had been banned in many states or ignored in others, was in 2015 ruled a constitutional right for all Americans.
Marriage as the union of one man and one woman is the most common definition of the term in the Western world today—this in spite of the prevalence on the one hand of divorce (enabling people to marry several different partners in sequence), and on the other, of an increasing acceptance of same-sex marriage. And as society becomes more inclusive, it is likely that “equal protection under the law” will be fully applied to same-sex couples.
In crafting definitions for a word that represents an institution that is rapidly evolving, the dictionary may well have to keep adding, changing, and reordering senses, splitting or combining them as the institution changes. Inevitably, those who want to preserve what they cherish as traditional values will resist new definitions, while those who anticipate, welcome, and fight for societal change will be impatient when new definitions do not appear as quickly as they would wish. But we should all remember that while it is not the job of a dictionary to drive social change, it is inevitable that it will reflect such change.
- "The universality of marriage within different societies and cultures is attributed to the many basic social and personal functions for which it provides structure, such as sexual gratification and regulation, division of labor between the sexes, economic production and consumption, and satisfaction of personal needs for affection, status, and companionship. Perhaps its strongest function concerns procreation, the care of children and their education and socialization, and regulation of lines of descent."Encyclopædia Britannica (accessed June 21, 2012)
- "There is no more lovely, friendly and charming relationship, communion or company than a good marriage."-Martin Luther (1566) ed. Leonard Roy Frank quoted in Random House Webster's Quotationary (1999)
- "The ideal that marriage aims at is that of spiritual union through the physical. The human love that it incarnates is intended to serve as a stepping stone to divine or universal love."-Mohandas K. Gandhi (1931) ed. Leonard Roy Frank quoted in Random House Webster's Quotationary (1999)
- "I, [name], take you, [name], for my lawful wife/husband, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part."The Catholic Rite of Marriage
- "Let me not to the marriage of true minds / Admit impediments. Love is not love / Which alters when it alteration finds, / Or bends with the remover to remove."-William Shakespeare Sonnet 116 (first published in 1609)
- "[Nobel laureate Wislawa] Szymborska’s poems are intimate, while [Jenny] Holzer’s light show is grandly public. The unlikely marriage of opposites gives the poems a terrific urgency and fills the big hall with infectious mental energy."-Ken Johnson Jenny Holzer Makes Light of Poems and Beats Swords Into Paintings The New York Times (December 26, 2007)
- the state or relationship of living together in a legal partnership
- the legal union or contract made by two people to live together
- (as modifier)marriage licence; marriage certificate
- the religious or legal ceremony formalizing this union; wedding
- a close or intimate union, relationship, etca marriage of ideas
- (in certain card games, such as bezique, pinochle) the king and queen of the same suit
Word Origin and History for pre-marriage
c.1300, "action of marrying, entry into wedlock;" also "state or condition of being husband and wife, matrimony, wedlock;" from Old French mariage "marriage; dowry" (12c.), from Vulgar Latin *maritaticum (11c.), from Latin maritatus, past participle of maritatre "to wed, marry, give in marriage" (see marry (v.)). The Vulgar Latin word also is the source of Italian maritaggio, Spanish maridaje.
Meaning "a union of a man and woman for life by marriage, a particular matrimonial union" is early 14c. Meanings "the marriage vow, formal declaration or contract by which two join in wedlock;" also "a wedding, celebration of a marriage; the marriage ceremony" are from late 14c. Figurative use (non-theological) "intimate union, a joining as if by marriage" is from early 15c.
[W]hen two people are under the influence of the most violent, most insane, most delusive, and most transient of passions, they are required to swear that they will remain in that excited, abnormal, and exhausting condition until death do them part. [G.B. Shaw, preface to "Getting Married," 1908]
Marriage counseling recorded by 1939. Marriage bed, figurative of marital intercourse generally, is attested from 1580s (bed of marriage is from early 15c.).