[ uh-duhl-ter-er ]
/ əˈdʌl tər ər /
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a person who commits adultery.
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Origin of adulterer

1350–1400; earlier adulter adulterer (<Latin, back formation from adulterāre to defile; see adulterate) + -er1; replacing Middle English avouter, avoutrer<Old French <Latin


adulterer , adulterate
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does adulterer mean?

An adulterer is someone who engages in adultery—a consensual sexual relationship or encounter between someone who’s married and a person they’re not married to (who may or may not be married to someone else).

Typically, for something to be considered adultery, at least one of the partners must be married. In other words, the adulterers can be two people who are both married to other people, or a married person and a nonmarried person. In any case, the word adulterer can be applied to both people in the adulterous relationship (not just the one who’s married).

On the other hand, calling someone unfaithful or saying that they cheated means that they engaged in a (usually sexual) relationship while they or the other person (or both) were in a committed relationship with someone else—not necessarily marriage.

When it happens with someone other than one’s spouse, a long-term relationship (often called an affair), a single sexual encounter, or anything in between can be considered to constitute adultery. In some cases, a relationship may even be considered adultery when it’s nonsexual but intimate (this is sometimes called an emotional affair).

The word adultery is especially used in a religious context, in which it’s often considered a sin. It’s also sometimes used in a legal context, such as during divorce proceedings. Adultery is a crime in some places (including in some U.S. states, though people aren’t often charged for it).

Adultery is associated with a considerable amount of stigma. The word adulterer is always used negatively and implies a critical judgment of such actions.

The word adulterer can refer to a person of any gender. The word adulteress, though, specifically refers to a woman who has engaged in adultery. (It has been more common throughout history for women to be blamed—and punished—for adulterous relationships than men.)

Example: He’s a serial adulterer who doesn’t even attempt to hide his affairs.

Where does adulterer come from?

The first records of the word adulterer come from the 1300s. It ultimately derives from the Latin verb adulterāre, meaning “to defile.” The same word is the basis of the English verb adulterate, meaning “to debase” or “to make impure.” Adulterers are usually adults, but the word adult is based on a different root.

“Thou shalt not commit adultery” is one of the Ten Commandments, and adultery is specifically prohibited by multiple religions and even some laws. It’s in this context that you’re most likely to hear the word adulterer. In the past, adultery was sometimes used in a more general way to refer to any type of sexual activity considered sinful. Today, however, calling someone an adulterer typically means that at least one of the partners in the relationship is married.

Did you know ... ?

What are some other forms related to adulterer?

What are some synonyms for adulterer?

What are some words that share a root or word element with adulterer


What are some words that often get used in discussing adulterer?

What are some words adulterer may be commonly confused with?

How is adulterer used in real life?

Adulterer is typically used in a judgmental way.



How to use adulterer in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for adulterer

/ (əˈdʌltərə) /

a person who has committed adultery

Word Origin for adulterer

C16: originally also adulter, from Latin adulter, back formation from adulterāre to adulterate
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