[ mar-ij ]
/ ˈmær ɪdʒ /
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Origin of marriage

First recorded in 1250–1300; Middle English mariage, from Old French, equivalent to mari(er) “to wed” + -age noun suffix; see origin at marry1, -age

synonym study for marriage

4. Marriage, wedding, nuptials are terms for the ceremony uniting couples in wedlock. Marriage is the simple and usual term, without implications as to circumstances and without emotional connotations: to announce the marriage of a daughter. Wedding has rather strong emotional, even sentimental, connotations, and suggests the accompanying festivities, whether elaborate or simple: a beautiful wedding; a reception after the wedding. Nuptials is a formal and lofty word applied to the ceremony and attendant social events; it does not have emotional connotations but strongly implies surroundings characteristic of wealth, rank, pomp, and grandeur: royal nuptials. It appears frequently on newspaper society pages chiefly as a result of the attempt to avoid continual repetition of marriage and wedding.

historical usage of marriage

Marriage has never had just one meaning. Adjectives commonly used with the word reveal the institution’s diversity, among them traditional, religious, civil, arranged, gay, plural, group, open, heterosexual, common-law, interracial, same-sex, polygamous, and monogamous. And this diversity has been in evidence, if not since the beginning of time, at least since the beginning of marriage itself, roughly some 4000 years ago.
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.



marriage , wedding (see synonym study at the current entry)

Quotations related to marriage

  • "There is no more lovely, friendly and charming relationship, communion or company than a good marriage. "
    -Martin Luther (1566) 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) 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)
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use marriage in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for marriage

/ (ˈmærɪdʒ) /

the state or relationship of living together in a legal partnership
  1. the legal union or contract made by two people to live together
  2. (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

Other words from marriage

Related adjectives: conjugal, marital, nuptial

Word Origin for marriage

C13: from Old French; see marry 1, -age
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