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.
First Known Use of fornication
Medical Definition of fornication
: consensual sexual intercourse between two persons not married to each other
Additional Notes on fornication
Where still considered a crime, fornication is classified as a misdemeanor.
Origin and Etymology of fornication
Late Latin fornicatio, from fornicare to have intercourse with prostitutes, from Latin fornic-, fornix arch, vault, brothel
Seen and Heard
What made you want to look up fornication? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).