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Law in Popular Culture

Webster Makes It Official: Definition of Marriage Has Changed

Posted Mar 23, 2009 9:35 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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Marriage is no longer limited to opposite-sex unions, a persuasive authority has ruled.

According to Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, it is also defined as "the state of being united to a person of the same sex in a relationship like that of a traditional marriage," reports the Adjunct Law Prof Blog in a post today. (Others had also noted the change earlier, as a trail of hat-tips makes clear.)

The secondary definition dates back to 2003, but it has recently gotten a lot of attention, the Associated Press writes.

In a press release earlier this month, the Springfield, Mass.-based company said it was surprised by the fuss, since its definition of marriage "is neither news nor unusual"—and it is, after all, the dictionary's job to define words according to their common meaning, according to the news agency.

"We were one of the last ones among the major dictionary publishers to do this," says spokesman Arthur Bicknell.

Apparently, however, it wasn't the final holdout. The Oxford English Dictionary, regarded by some as the Bible of English word definition, this month added a secondary definition of marriage in a draft version.

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