[ mar-ij ]
See synonyms for marriage on
  1. (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.

  1. the state, condition, or relationship of being married; wedlock: They have a happy marriage.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. any close or intimate association or union: the marriage of words and music in a hit song.

  5. a formal agreement between two companies or enterprises to combine operations, resources, etc., for mutual benefit; merger.

  6. a blending or matching of different elements or components: The new lipstick is a beautiful marriage of fragrance and texture.

  7. Cards. a meld of the king and queen of a suit, as in pinochle.: Compare royal marriage.

  8. a piece of antique furniture assembled from components of two or more authentic pieces.

  9. Obsolete. the formal declaration or contract by which act a man and a woman join in wedlock.

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.

word story For 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.

Other words for marriage

Opposites for marriage

Other words from marriage

  • non·mar·riage, noun
  • post·mar·riage, noun, adjective
  • pre·mar·riage, noun
  • pro·mar·riage, adjective
  • re·mar·riage, noun

Words that may be confused with marriage

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

  1. 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

  1. the religious or legal ceremony formalizing this union; wedding

  2. a close or intimate union, relationship, etc: a marriage of ideas

  3. (in certain card games, such as bezique, pinochle) the king and queen of the same suit

Origin of marriage

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

Other words from marriage

  • Related adjectives: conjugal, marital, nuptial

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