adultery

noun
adul·​tery | \ ə-ˈdəl-t(ə-)rē How to pronounce adultery (audio) \
plural adulteries

Definition of adultery

: voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and someone other than that person's current spouse or partner also : an act of adultery

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What’s the difference between adultery and fornication?

In case you were wondering, the words adultery and adult are not etymologically related (in other words, adultery didn’t grow out of adult in the way that punditry grew out of pundit). Although both words come from Latin and share the same first five letters, adultery is from adulterāre (“to pollute, defile, commit adultery”), a word formed ultimately from the Latin elements ad- “to, near” and alter “other.” English adult comes from adultus, which is the past participle of the Latin word adolescere (“to grow up”).

In legal use there is a difference between adultery and fornication. Adultery is only used when at least one of the parties involved (either male or female) is married, whereas fornication may be used to describe two people who are unmarried (to each other or anyone else) engaging in consensual sexual intercourse.

Examples of adultery in a Sentence

He found out that his wife had committed adultery. She accused her husband of adultery.

Recent Examples on the Web

And yet, for every celebrity adultery story, there are very likely a zillion more that stay hidden under the covers, relationships between consenting adults that don't involve heartbreak, love children, or TMZ. Marcia Desanctis, Town & Country, "Mark Sanford, Act II," 14 Feb. 2013 Cromwell, eager to please his royal master, produced what passed for evidence that Anne was guilty of adultery, which was regarded officially as treason. Allan Massie, WSJ, "‘Thomas Cromwell: A Revolutionary Life’ Review: The King’s Fixer," 2 Nov. 2018 Of course, there's also Shakespeare himself, portrayed by roguishly handsome newcomer Laurie Davidson, grappling with religion, politics, and adultery while trying to establish himself as a playwright and actor in 16th-century London. Julie Kosin, Harper's BAZAAR, "Will Is the Sexy Take on William Shakespeare You've Been Waiting For," 13 June 2017 The latest decision came Thursday when Chief Justice Dipak Misra and the rest of the five-member court struck down a 158-year-old law that treated adultery in certain cases as a criminal offence punishable by up to five years in prison. Ashok Sharma, Fox News, "India chief justice's new decision strikes down adultery law," 28 Sep. 2018 George Stephanopoulos and James Carville dealing with unforeseen problems and negative press, as their candidate is saddled with accusations of adultery and draft-dodging. Vogue, "These Are the 66 Best Documentaries of All Time," 8 Aug. 2018 In 1536, Anne Boleyn, second wife of King Henry VIII, was arrested and charged with adultery; she was beheaded 17 days later. BostonGlobe.com, "This day in history," 2 May 2018 Steven and Katie were arrested Jan. 27 and charged with adultery and contributing to delinquency. Fox News, "North Carolina incest father told mother he killed daughter-wife and their child in shocking 911 call," 13 Apr. 2018 If a man's sperm fertilizes an egg from a woman who is not his wife, does that constitute adultery? Ariana Eunjung Cha, chicagotribune.com, "40 years after 1st 'test tube' baby, science has produced 7 million babies - and raised moral questions," 27 Apr. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'adultery.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of adultery

15th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for adultery

Middle English adultrye, adultery, alteration (conformed to Latin adulterium) of avoutrie, advoutrie, alteration (with addition of suffix -ie -y entry 2) of avoutre, borrowed from Anglo-French avulteire, avouteire, going back to Latin adulterium, from adulterāre "to defile by adultery, commit adultery with, pollute" + -ium deverbal noun suffix — more at adulterate entry 1

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Statistics for adultery

Last Updated

6 Feb 2019

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Time Traveler for adultery

The first known use of adultery was in the 15th century

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More Definitions for adultery

adultery

noun

English Language Learners Definition of adultery

: sex between a married person and someone who is not that person's wife or husband

adultery

noun
adul·​tery | \ ə-ˈdəl-tə-rē\

Legal Definition of adultery

: voluntary sexual activity (as sexual intercourse) between a married man and someone other than his wife or between a married woman and someone other than her husband also : the crime of adultery — compare fornication

Other Words from adultery

adulterer \ ə-​ˈdəl-​tə-​rər How to pronounce adulterer (audio) \ noun
adulteress \ -​tə-​rəs How to pronounce adulteress (audio) \ noun

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Comments on adultery

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