• synonyms


[lev-er-it, -uh-reyt, lee-ver-it, -vuh-reyt]
  1. the custom of marriage by a man with his brother's widow, such marriage required in Biblical law if the deceased was childless. Deut. 25:5–10.
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Origin of levirate

1715–25; < Latin lēvir husband's brother (akin to Greek dāḗr, Sanskrit devar, Old English tācor) + -ate3
Related formslev·i·rat·ic [lev-uh-rat-ik, lee-vuh-] /ˌlɛv əˈræt ɪk, ˌli və-/, lev·i·rat·i·cal, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for levirate

Historical Examples

  • Most marriage was by purchase; the levirate and sororate were common.

    California Athabascan Groups

    Martin A. Baumhoff

  • In Polynesia the levirate has the force of law, and it is common throughout America and Asia.

  • This is certainly possible, although it rests on the hypothesis of the Levirate marriage.

  • The Levirate (from "Levir," a brother-in-law, in Sanscrit dvar) is also found operating as a stringent injunction.

  • By a Levirate marriage if a man died without heirs his remaining brother married his widow and raised up heirs to him.

    The Christ

    John Eleazer Remsburg

British Dictionary definitions for levirate


  1. the practice, required by Old Testament law, of marrying the widow of one's brother
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Derived Formsleviratic (ˌlɛvɪˈrætɪk) or leviratical, adjective

Word Origin

C18: from Latin lēvir a husband's brother
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

Word Origin and History for levirate


custom by which the male next-of-kin of a dead man was bound to marry his widow, 1725, from Latin levir "brother-in-law" (from PIE *daiwer- "husband's brother") + -ate (2).

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper