noun (1)
di·​vorce | \ də-ˈvȯrs How to pronounce divorce (audio) also dī- \

Essential Meaning of divorce

1 : the ending of a marriage by a legal process Since getting a divorce, she has been raising her children alone. They went through a lengthy/messy divorce. See More ExamplesTheir marriage ended in divorce. They are filing for divorce. [=they are filing a paper with the courts asking that their marriage be legally ended] Financial problems are a leading cause of divorce.Hide
2 formal : a complete separation between two things

Full Definition of divorce

 (Entry 1 of 3)

1 law : the action or an instance of legally dissolving (see dissolve entry 1 sense 1d) a marriage
2 : separation, severance divorce of the secular and the spiritual


divorced; divorcing

Definition of divorce (Entry 2 of 3)

transitive verb

1 law
a : to legally dissolve one's marriage with : to end marriage with (one's spouse) by divorce (see divorce entry 1 sense 1) She divorced her husband.
b : to dissolve the marriage contract between They were divorced last year. They are getting divorced.
2 : to make or keep separate : separate divorce church from state media narratives divorced from reality

intransitive verb

law : to obtain a divorce They divorced two years later.


noun (2)
di·​vor·​cé | \ də-ˌvȯr-ˈsā How to pronounce divorcé (audio) , -ˈsē How to pronounce divorcé (audio) , -ˈvȯr-ˌsā \

Definition of divorcé (Entry 3 of 3)

: a divorced man

Other Words from divorce


divorcement \ də-​ˈvȯr-​smənt How to pronounce divorcé (audio) \ noun

Choose the Right Synonym for divorce


separate, part, divide, sever, sunder, divorce mean to become or cause to become disunited or disjointed. separate may imply any of several causes such as dispersion, removal of one from others, or presence of an intervening thing. separated her personal life from her career part implies the separating of things or persons in close union or association. vowed never to part divide implies separating into pieces or sections by cutting or breaking. civil war divided the nation sever implies violence especially in the removal of a part or member. a severed limb sunder suggests violent rending or wrenching apart. a city sundered by racial conflict divorce implies separating two things that commonly interact and belong together. cannot divorce scientific research from moral responsibility

Examples of divorce in a Sentence

Noun (1) Since getting a divorce, she has been raising her children alone. They went through a lengthy divorce. Their marriage ended in divorce. Financial problems are a leading cause of divorce. Verb After years of unhappiness, she decided to divorce him. They both agreed it was best to divorce. Their constitution divorces church and state.
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First Known Use of divorce

Noun (1)

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


15th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

Noun (2)

1877, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for divorce

Noun (1) and Verb

Middle English divorse, from Anglo-French, from Latin divortium, from divertere, divortere to divert, to leave one's husband

Learn More About divorce

Time Traveler for divorce

Time Traveler

The first known use of divorce was in the 14th century

See more words from the same century

Dictionary Entries Near divorce

divisural line



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Statistics for divorce

Cite this Entry

“Divorce.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/divorce. Accessed 25 Jan. 2022.

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More Definitions for divorce


di·​vorce | \ də-ˈvȯrs How to pronounce divorce (audio) \

Kids Definition of divorce

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a legal ending of a marriage


divorced; divorcing

Kids Definition of divorce (Entry 2 of 2)

: to end a marriage legally : get a divorce



Legal Definition of divorce

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: the dissolution of a valid marriage granted especially on specified statutory grounds (as adultery) arising after the marriage — compare annulment

Note: The most common grounds for divorce are absence from the marital home, drug or alcohol addiction, adultery, cruelty, conviction of a crime, desertion, insanity, and nonsupport.

absolute divorce
: a divorce that completely and permanently dissolves the marital relationship and terminates marital rights (as property rights) and obligations (as fidelity)
divorce a mensa et thoro \ -​ˌā-​ˈmen-​sə-​ˌet-​ˈthȯr-​ō, -​ˌä-​ˈmen-​sä-​ˌet-​ˈthō-​rō \
: a separation governed by a court order : legal separation
divorce a vinculo matrimonii \ -​ˌā-​ˈviŋ-​kyu̇-​ˌlō-​ˌma-​trə-​ˈmō-​nē-​ˌī, -​ˌä-​ˈviŋ-​kü-​ˌlō-​ˌmä-​trē-​ˈmō-​nē-​ˌē \
: absolute divorce in this entry
limited divorce
: an intentional cessation of cohabitation between spouses : separation
no-fault divorce
: an absolute divorce that is not based on either spouse's fault and that is granted usually on the grounds of an irretrievable breakdown or when the spouses have lived apart for a statutorily specified period of time


divorced; divorcing

Legal Definition of divorce (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to dissolve the marriage of (a spouse) by judgment or decree of divorce
2 : to sever the marital relationship with (a spouse) by means of a judgment or decree of divorce

intransitive verb

: to obtain a divorce

History and Etymology for divorce


Middle French, from Latin divortium, from divortere, divertere to leave one's marriage partner, from di- away, apart + vertere to turn

More from Merriam-Webster on divorce

Nglish: Translation of divorce for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of divorce for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about divorce


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