mar·​riage | \ ˈmer-ij How to pronounce marriage (audio) , ˈma-rij \

Definition of marriage

1a see usage paragraph below : the state of being united as spouses in a consensual and contractual relationship recognized by law
b : the mutual relation of married persons : wedlock
c : the institution whereby individuals are joined in a marriage
2 : an act of marrying or the rite by which the married status is effected especially : the wedding ceremony and attendant festivities or formalities
3 : an intimate or close union the marriage of painting and poetry— J. T. Shawcross

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Usage of Marriage

The definition of the word marriage—or, more accurately, the understanding of what the institution of marriage properly consists of—continues to be highly controversial. This is not an issue to be resolved by dictionaries. Ultimately, the controversy involves cultural traditions, religious beliefs, legal rulings, and ideas about fairness and basic human rights. The principal point of dispute has to do with marriage between two people of the same sex, often referred to as same-sex marriage or gay marriage. Same-sex marriages are now recognized by law in a growing number of countries and were legally validated throughout the U.S. by the Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges in 2015. In many other parts of the world, marriage continues to be allowed only between men and women. The definition of marriage shown here is intentionally broad enough to encompass the different types of marriage that are currently recognized in varying cultures, places, religions, and systems of law.

Examples of marriage in a Sentence

It was his second marriage. They have a very happy marriage. Her first two marriages ended in divorce. She has old-fashioned ideas about marriage. couples living together before marriage Many friends and relatives were present at their marriage. a priest who has performed many marriages a marriage of sweet and spicy flavors a marriage of science and art a marriage between form and function
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Recent Examples on the Web A few hours later, a taxi dropped us at the Las Vegas Office of Civil Marriages. Noel Anenberg, WSJ, "Don Rickles Will Always Be Our Best Man," 10 Apr. 2017 For centuries, the island was the traditional meeting place to hand off brides and grooms when important royal marriages were arranged between France and Spain. Ken Jennings, Condé Nast Traveler, "Why Pheasant Island Is Sometimes in France, Sometimes in Spain," 27 Feb. 2017 His marriages to Carol Thompson and Judith Sherman ended in divorce. Sam Roberts, New York Times, "Max Wilcox, Grammy-Winning Record Producer, Dies at 88," 31 Jan. 2017 Greco is survived by Anders and seven children from previous marriages. Nardine Saad,, "Buddy Greco, who ran with the Rat Pack and had a hit in 'The Lady Is a Tramp,' dies at 90," 12 Jan. 2017 Online court records from Polk County, Florida, show that Hundley had several previous marriages that ended in divorce. Emily Foxhall, Houston Chronicle, "Deputies fatally shoot armed woman, 71, in Pearland complex," 30 Dec. 2016 Zsa Zsa Gabor, the jet-setting Hungarian actress and socialite who helped invent a new kind of fame out of multiple marriages, conspicuous wealth and jaded wisdom about the glamorous life, died Sunday at her home, her husband said. Honolulu Star-Advertiser, "Jet-setting Hungarian actress Zsa Zsa Gabor dies at age 99," 18 Dec. 2016 There are no children from any of the marriages, although his third wife had a son, and my grandson helped support the child. Kwame Anthony Appiah, New York Times, "Should Parents Be Expected to Donate to a Public School?," 22 Nov. 2016 Still, early marriages and poverty are two of the biggest reasons more than 130 million girls are out of school globally. Beth Murphy, New York Times, "Pashtana’s Lesson," 29 Oct. 2016

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'marriage.' 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 marriage

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for marriage

Middle English mariage, from Anglo-French, from marier to marry

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Time Traveler for marriage

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for marriage

Cite this Entry

“Marriage.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for marriage



English Language Learners Definition of marriage

: the relationship that exists between a husband and a wife
: a similar relationship between people of the same sex
: a ceremony in which two people are married to each other


mar·​riage | \ ˈmer-ij How to pronounce marriage (audio) \

Kids Definition of marriage

1 : the state of being united in a legal relationship as husband and wife
2 : the act of getting married


mar·​riage | \ ˈmar-ij How to pronounce marriage (audio) \

Legal Definition of marriage

1 : the state of being united to a person as spouse in a legal, consensual, and contractual relationship recognized and sanctioned by and dissolvable only by law — see also divorce,Obergefell v. Hodges — compare civil union
2 : the ceremony containing certain legal formalities by which a marriage relationship is created

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