1 of 3

noun (1)

di·​vorce də-ˈvȯrs How to pronounce divorce (audio)
 also  dī-
law : the action or an instance of legally dissolving (see dissolve entry 1 sense 1d) a marriage
: separation, severance
divorce of the secular and the spiritual


2 of 3


divorced; divorcing

transitive verb

: 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.
: to dissolve the marriage contract between
They were divorced last year.
They are getting divorced.
: 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.
divorcement noun


3 of 3

noun (2)

di·​vor·​cé də-ˌvȯr-ˈsā How to pronounce divorcé (audio) -ˈsē How to pronounce divorcé (audio)
: a divorced man
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

Example Sentences

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. See More
Recent Examples on the Web
Our reporting shows that some real estate investors comb public records looking for signs of financial hardship, such as foreclosures, divorces or death notices. Byard Duncan, ProPublica, 17 May 2023 During Charlie Chaplin’s 1927 divorce from his second teenage wife, only female reporters pressed the actor on his penchant for underage girls. Janet Hook, Los Angeles Times, 17 May 2023 If there’s Oscars for how to handle divorce, Maria and I should get it for having the least amount of impact on the kids. James Hibberd, The Hollywood Reporter, 16 May 2023 Midway through season 3, Stause revealed she was blindsided by the divorce. Catherine Santino, Peoplemag, 16 May 2023 From Elizabeth Taylor's many divorces, to the loves (and lusts) of King Henry VIII, to modern obsessions like the couples of RHONY and, of course, Bennifer this show is sure to sate your schadenfreude appetite. Lauren Hubbard, Town & Country, 16 May 2023 Then Batykefer’s best friend, Tessa Gilder, also went through a divorce and came to stay in the house, bringing along her two children, now 5 and 1. Debra Kamin, BostonGlobe.com, 14 May 2023 Charles Vallow had filed for divorce in February 2019. Miguel Torres, The Arizona Republic, 12 May 2023 The Vallows separated the following year, with Charles Vallow filing for divorce. CBS News, 12 May 2023
After divorcing Billy, Anna Nicole relocated to Houston, where she was born, according to Texas State Historical Association. Olivia Evans, Women's Health, 18 May 2023 After divorcing Uhde, Sonia married Delaunay, and the two formed an enormously influential creative partnership along the lines of such other avant-garde couples as Gabriele Münter and Wassily Kandinsky, Sophie Taeuber and Hans Arp, and Natalia Goncharova and Mikhail Larionov. Washington Post, 17 May 2023 Their parents divorced when McNulty was in her junior year at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. Rachel O'neal, Arkansas Online, 14 May 2023 Jackie’s parents divorced in 1940, and after her mother married Hugh Auchincloss in 1942, the family began spending summers at his farm in Newport, Rhode Island, instead of East Hampton. Rachel Silva, ELLE Decor, 13 May 2023 Joel and Elizabeth later got married in 1973 and divorced later in 1982. Jacob Linden, Redbook, 10 May 2023 Juli, who lived next door, divorced and moved to Colorado: the last of the Norelius kids to leave town. Katie Engelhart, New York Times, 9 May 2023 Born only a year after India won independence from what was then his grandfather’s empire, Charles’ legacy is impossible to divorce from the pains of colonialism that still ripple through the subcontinent and diaspora today, experts said. Sakshi Venkatraman, NBC News, 5 May 2023 The thought of paying him alimony stopped me from divorcing him. Meredith Goldstein, BostonGlobe.com, 30 Apr. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'divorce.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Noun (1) and Verb

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

First Known Use

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

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

Dictionary Entries Near divorce

Cite this Entry

“Divorce.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/divorce. Accessed 29 May. 2023.

Kids Definition


1 of 3 noun
di·​vorce də-ˈvōrs How to pronounce divorce (audio)
: the action or an instance of legally ending a marriage
: complete separation


2 of 3 verb
divorced; divorcing
: to end marriage with one's spouse by divorce
: to cancel the marriage contract between two spouses
: to make or keep separate : separate, disunite
divorcement noun


3 of 3 noun
di·​vor·​cé də-ˌvōr-ˈsā How to pronounce divorcé (audio) -ˌvȯr- How to pronounce divorcé (audio)
: a divorced man

Legal Definition


1 of 2 noun
: 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


2 of 2 verb
divorced; divorcing

transitive verb

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

intransitive verb

: to obtain a 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

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