fornication

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noun for·ni·ca·tion \ˌfȯr-nə-ˈkā-shən\

Definition of fornication

  1. :  consensual sexual intercourse between two persons not married to each other — compare adultery

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.

14th Century

First Known Use of fornication

14th century


Medical Dictionary

fornication

play
noun for·ni·ca·tion \ˌfȯr-nə-ˈkā-shən\

Medical Definition of fornication

  1. :  consensual sexual intercourse between two persons not married to each other


Law Dictionary

fornication

play
noun for·ni·ca·tion \ˌfȯr-nə-ˈkā-shən\

Legal Definition of fornication

  1. :  consensual sexual intercourse between a man and especially single woman who are not married to each other; also :  the crime of engaging in fornication — compare adultery

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



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