The Meaning of Wedlock: What It Is and How To Use It

Have you ever wondered what the word wedlock means? This article will give you all of the knowledge you need on the word wedlock, including its definition, etymology, synonyms, sentence usage, and more!

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What is the definition of wedlock?

According to Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, and other dictionary apps, the word wedlock is a noun which refers to the state of being married. While the term is rarely used by itself to refer to the state of being married outside of formal religious contexts, it is often used to criticize the actions of a couple who is not married. This can refer to actions that religious entities think are unacceptable to perform before marriage, like having sex and bearing children. While wedlock can ve used to refer to the state of being married in a neutral or positive way, it is most often used to criticize and shame. 

Things are often described as occurring in or out of wedlock, such as having a child. This is the most common place in which the term wedlock is used, and people will often refer to the children of unmarried parents as children born out of wedlock. 

People can also describe different marriages as being outside of lawful wedlock. This is often used to refer to polygamy, which is looked down upon in certain cultures, and especially America. If someone is a part of a polygamist society, others may criticize them and state that most of their marriages are outside of lawful wedlock, as the government will only allow people to be married to one person at a time. They view a spousal relationship like this to be wrong and do not recognize it as a real marriage.

What is the etymology of the word wedlock?

According to Etymonline, the word wedlock comes from the Old English wedlāc, which meant pledge giving or marriage vow. This comes from the root wed and the suffix lāc, which means actions of proceedings. This suffix has been attested in a few different Old English compound words, but the word wedlock is the only surviving example. The meaning of the word to mean the condition or state of being married has been attested since the early 13th century. It is possible that the term was once spelled wedlocke or wedlok.

The word wed comes from the Old English weddian, meaning to pledge oneself, or to unite two people, according to Etymonline. This comes from the Proto-Germanic wasja, which meant to pledge or redeem a pledge. This comes from the Latin source vas, or vadis, meaning bail or security. Using the word wed to mean to join a husband and wife or two spouses is from circa the year 1200.

The first records of the word wedlock come from before the 1100s.

What are synonyms and antonyms to the word wedlock?

There are many different words that one could choose to use in place of the term wedlock. These are called synonyms. Synonyms are words and phrases that have the same definition as another word or phrase. Someone might choose to use a synonym for the word wedlock in order to expand their vocabulary or in order to avoid repeating themselves. The below list of synonyms for the word wedlock is provided by Thesaurus

  • alliance
  • mating
  • conjugality
  • connubiality
  • wedding
  • union
  • association
  • matrimony
  • wedded bliss
  • coupling
  • holy matrimony
  • espousal
  • spousal
  • nuptials
  • marriage

If one wished to use a word that was the opposite of the word wedlock, they could use what is called an antonym. An antonym is a word or phrase that has the opposite definition to another word or phrase. The below list of antonyms for the word wedlock is also provided by Thesaurus

  • divorcement
  • break
  • division
  • parting of the ways
  • disunion
  • separate maintenance
  • partition
  • rupture
  • dedomiciling
  • split up
  • annulment
  • separation
  • divorce
  • split
  • decree nisi
  • breakup
  • detachment
  • on the rocks
  • dissolution
  • splitsville
  • severance
  • breach
  • dissociation
  • disparateness

How can the word wedlock be used in a sentence?

The word wedlock can be used to refer to the state of being married in numerous different contexts. One should note that the use of the word wedlock is often negative, in that it is used to refer to things that are frowned upon in certain religions or societies happening outside of wedlock. In this first example, Tammy and Martha are gossiping about what is going on at their daughter’s high school.

Tammy: Did you hear what happened to Sheila’s daughter?

Martha: No! What happened?

Tammy: Pregnant. She’s only fifteen.

Martha: Oh my God. Another child out of wedlock. Horrific.

Tammy: I guess she wanted to get an abortion but Sheila wouldn’t let her.

Martha: Wow.

Here, Martha and Tammy are using the word wedlock to refer to the fact that their friend’s child is having a baby but is not yet married. In this next example, Martha comes to Tammy with a revelation.

Martha: You’re not going to believe this. I guess I judged too early, Tam.

Tammy: What happened?

Martha: My Maggie is having sex out of wedlock. I found condoms in her bag.

Tammy: Oh my God! What did you say?

Martha: Well, I wanted to tell her she is way too young to be having sex, but instead, I talked to her about the importance of being safe. I feel like if I did the former, she’d just go behind my back.

Overall, the word wedlock is used to refer to the state of being married. While this is not often used to refer to marriage in a neutral or positive way, it is usually used to refer to things that one judges another for doing outside the state of being married, such as having sexual relations outside of wedlock or having children born out of wedlock.