Marriage Terminology
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MARRIAGE TERMINOLOGY

Where rules are implied

by Phil Bartle, PhD


Training Handout

Let us look at a few of the technical terms we use for various marriage rules

Much of this is already in the glossary, but we put them together here for comparing and contrasting.

When you are looking at such rules, make sure you know if each rule proscribes or prohibits (forbids), prefers, prescribes (requires) or permits (allows).

The suffix, “gamy” is often used, and can be seen today as indicating spouse or marriage.

In different cultures, there are different levels of formality and social recognition of cohabitation.

In Akan society, a socially recognised, non marriage, cohabitation is called mpna.

A priestess is married to her god, but may have an mpna to father her children.

In Canada, persons living together conjugally without having undergone a legal marriage ceremony, may be treated in law as if they are married after a certain length of time.

Marriage laws are under Provincial jurisdiction in Canada, and differ from province to province.

Very often immigrants to Canada bring their marriage practices and customs to Canada, then modify and adapt them to conform to the law.

Because having more than one wife is illegal in Canada, there are cases when Moslems from the Middle East, even if they satisfy all other immigration requirements, may denied immigration status for having more than one wife.

Bigamy means two spouses, from the suffix “bi” meaning two. It is a specific form of polygamy.

It is illegal in Canada and societies in Western Europe. The law reflects Christian history and values.

Endogamy means marriage from within the same group, from “endo” meaning inside.

Ethnic or racial endogamy means that a person must choose a mate from within the same ethnic group or race.

It is permitted in Canada, and practised by some immigrant groups, but is not seen as consistent with Canadian values of inclusion and racial equality.

Exogamy means marriage to someone outside the same group, from the prefix “exo” meaning outside.

The smallest group outside which one should marry or have sex is the immediate family, and the incest taboo, close to universal, proscribes or forbids it.

Lineage exogamy, where marriage is permitted only outside a person’s lineage is seen as an extension of the incest taboo.

Monogamy means marriage to one spouse, from the prefix “mono” meaning one.

In Christian ideals, and practised in Europe and North America, this is the preferred rule.

Serial monogamy means several spouses in turn, one at a time.

Polyandry means having more than one husband, from “andry” meaning male. This is practised very rarely, and can be found in a few places in Nigeria and Northeast India.

Polygamy means more than one spouse, and includes both polyandry and polygyny.  Since polyandry is very rare, polygamy is often used instead of polygyny.

Polygyny means more than one wife, from the suffix “gyny” meaning woman.

The majority of recorded cultures and societies permit polygyny, but in them all a very low proportion of marriages are polygynous.

Most men cite the extra expense as prohibiting them from having more than one wife.

In the USA and Canada, groups such as the Mormons and Oneida allow polygyny.

Since adultery is not illegal in many places, polygyny can be practised so long as the law is not required to recognise more than one relationship as marriage.

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Last update: 2011.05.22

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