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Definitions of Marriage

  1. (noun) A socially recognized union between two or more people with the notion of permanence.
  2. (noun) A legal contract between two or more people that establishes certain rights and obligations.

Types of Marriage

Marriage Pronunciation

Pronunciation Usage Guide

Syllabification: mar·riage

Audio Pronunciation

– American English
– British English

Phonetic Spelling

  • American English – /mAIR-ij/
  • British English – /mAr-ij/

International Phonetic Alphabet

  • American English – /ˈmɛrɪdʒ/
  • British English – /ˈmarɪdʒ/

Usage Notes

Related Quotations

  • “By deinstitutionalization I mean the weakening of the social norms that define people’s behavior in a social institution such as marriage. In times of social stability, the taken-for-granted nature of norms allows people to go about their lives without having to question their actions or the actions of others. But when social change produces situations outside the reach of established normsindividuals can no longer rely on shared understandings of how to act. Rather, they must negotiate new ways of acting, a process that is a potential source of conflict and opportunity. On the one hand, the development of new rules is likely to engender disagreement and tension among the relevant actors. On the other hand, the breakdown of the old rules of a gendered institution such as marriage could lead to the creation of a more egalitarian relationship between wives and husbands” (Cherlin 2004:848).
  • “In American society, the basic kinship system consists of parents and children, but it may include other relatives as well, especially grandparents. Each person in this system has certain rights and obligations as a result of his or her position in the family structure. Furthermore, a person may occupy several positions at the same time. For example, an 18-year-old woman may simultaneously be a daughter, a sister, a cousin, an aunt, and a granddaughter. Each role entails different rights and obligations. As a daughter, the young woman may have to defer to certain decisions of her parents; as a sister, to share her bedroom; as a cousin, to attend a wedding; and as a granddaughter, to visit her grandparents during the holidays” (Strong, Devault, and Cohen 2011:19).
  • “In France, married but childless women commit suicide half again as often as unmarried women of the same age. We have already noted that generally the wife benefits less from family life than the husband. Now we can see the cause of this; taken by itself, conjugal life is harmful to the woman and aggravates her tendency to suicide. If, nevertheless, most wives have appeared to enjoy a favourable coefficient of preservation, this is because childless households are the exception and consequently the presence of children remedies and reduces the bad effects of marriage in most cases” (Durkheim [1897] 2004:75).

Additional Information

Related Terms


Cherlin, Andrew J. 2004. “The Deinstitutionalization of American Marriage.” Journal of Marriage and Family 66(4):848–61.

Durkheim, Émile. [1897] 2004. “Suicide.” Pp. 65–83 in Readings from Emile Durkheim. Rev. ed., edited and translated by K. Thompson. New York: Routledge.

Strong, Bryan, Christine DeVault, and Theodore F. Cohen. 2011. The Marriage and Family Experience: Intimate Relationships in a Changing Society. 11th ed. Boston: Cengage Learning.

Works Consulted

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Wikipedia contributors. (N.d.) Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation. (https://en.wikipedia.org/).

Cite the Definition of Marriage

ASA – American Sociological Association (5th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “marriage.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Retrieved June 23, 2024 (https://sociologydictionary.org/marriage/).

APA – American Psychological Association (6th edition)

marriage. (2013). In K. Bell (Ed.), Open education sociology dictionary. Retrieved from https://sociologydictionary.org/marriage/

Chicago/Turabian: Author-Date – Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “marriage.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Accessed June 23, 2024. https://sociologydictionary.org/marriage/.

MLA – Modern Language Association (7th edition)

“marriage.” Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Ed. Kenton Bell. 2013. Web. 23 Jun. 2024. <https://sociologydictionary.org/marriage/>.