[ wed-lok ]
/ ˈwɛdˌlɒk /
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Definition of wedlock

the state of marriage; matrimony.
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Origin of wedlock

before 1100; Middle English wedlok,Old English wedlāc literally, a pledging, equivalent to wed pledge (see wed) + -lāc verbal noun suffix
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What does wedlock mean?

Wedlock is the state of being married.

The term is rarely used by itself simply to refer to the state of marriage other than in very formal religious contexts.

Instead, wedlock is most commonly used in criticism of the actions of couples who are not married, most especially in the phrase born out of wedlock—meaning born when one’s parents are not legally married.

This phrase and the beliefs and criticisms that go with it are often themselves criticized for stigmatizing children and their parents when those parents are not married or were not married at the time of the birth.

Other instances of the use of the word wedlock also involve criticism of actions taken by partners who are not married, such as living together or engaging in sexual activity out of wedlock.

Where does wedlock come from?

The first records of the word wedlock come from before the 1100s. The suffix -lock is not the same lock that you open with a key or that’s found in words like gridlock or headlock. Instead the word comes from the Old English wedlāc, meaning “a pledging.” This word is based on the Old English wed, which means “pledge” and is, unsurprisingly, related to the word wedding.

Due to religious and societal beliefs that have existed throughout much of history, having children without being married has often been considered immoral—or at least a situation to be avoided. Such beliefs often lead people to criticize those who do so, resulting in the use of stigmatizing terms like born out of wedlock or illegitimate to label such children.

Similar criticisms have traditionally been issued against partners who live together outside of wedlock (sometimes called cohabiting, cohabitating, or even living in sin, all of which have negative connotations) or who engage in sexual activity outside of wedlock. In both of these cases, the phrase outside of marriage is probably more commonly used than outside of wedlock—but it carries the same critical tone.

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What are some synonyms for wedlock?

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


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

How is wedlock used in real life?

Wedlock can be used in a neutral or positive way to refer to the state of being married, but it’s most commonly used in critical comments that refer to not being married.



How to use wedlock in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for wedlock

/ (ˈwɛdlɒk) /

the state of being married
born out of wedlock born when one's parents are not legally married

Word Origin for wedlock

Old English wedlāc, from wedd pledge + -lāc, suffix denoting activity, perhaps from lāc game, battle (related to Gothic laiks dance, Old Norse leikr)
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

Other Idioms and Phrases with wedlock


see out of wedlock.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.