noun mar·riage \ ˈmer-ij , ˈma-rij \

Definition of marriage

1 a 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

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

  1. It was his second marriage.

  2. They have a very happy marriage.

  3. Her first two marriages ended in divorce.

  4. She has old-fashioned ideas about marriage.

  5. couples living together before marriage

  6. Many friends and relatives were present at their marriage.

  7. a priest who has performed many marriages

  8. a marriage of sweet and spicy flavors

  9. a marriage of science and art

  10. a marriage between form and function

Recent Examples of marriage from the Web

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.

Origin and Etymology of marriage

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

MARRIAGE Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of marriage for English Language Learners

  • : 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

MARRIAGE Defined for Kids


noun mar·riage \ ˈmer-ij \

Definition of marriage for Students

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

Law Dictionary


noun mar·riage \ ˈmar-ij \

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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