Dictionaries Redefine “Marriage” to be a “Union of Two Persons”

BOSTON, May 28, 2004 ( - Many dictionaries have rewritten their definitions of marriage to reflect recent legal and social developements regarding same-sex unions, according to a Washington Times story this week. The dictionaries cited by the Times author include the American Heritage Dictionary, the Oxford English Dictionary, and the Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th Edition.

The American Heritage Dictionary, for example, in 2000, altered the definition to “A union between two persons having the customary but usually not the legal force of marriage.” Editor Joe Pickett told the Times, “. . .we’ll be altering [the marriage definition] in the future to reflect the Massachusetts decision. There have been a lot of changes in the defining of family terms in the past 15 years,” he said. “A family is not necessarily a ‘nuclear’ family anymore. We’ve also had to re-examine definitions influenced by reproductive technology and accommodate the different possibilities of ‘mother’ and ‘father.’ It’s an interesting time.”

In 2001, the Oxford English Dictionary made an addition to the definition of marriage, “The term is now sometimes used with reference to long-term relationships between partners of the same sex,” it reads.

In July, Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th edition, was reorganized to include, “The state of being united to a person of the same sex in a relationship like that of a traditional marriage.” Arthur Bicknell, spokesman for Merriam-Webster, claimed that “We look for the full breadth of its usage and to provide our readers with accurate information about current usage patterns.” Merriam-Webster is located in Massachusetts.  For the Easton’s 1897 Bible Dictionary definition of marriage, go to:

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