Marriage Words

By Maeve Maddox

In my reading last night, I discovered a new marriage word:

hypergamy [hye-PER-guh-mee]: marriage with a partner of higher social standing.

Cinderella’s marriage to the prince is an example of hypergamy.

Hypergamy belongs to a group of English words formed with -gamy, a suffix derived from Greek words for husband, wife, and marry. The presence of this suffix indicates that a word has something to do with marriage or reproduction. Most of these words relate to botany or biology, but several apply to people.

bigamy: marriage with a second wife or husband when already married. Bigamy became a criminal offense in England and Wales in 1640, and a federal offense in the United States in 1862.

deuterogamy: marriage a second time; marriage after the death of a first husband or wife.

digamy: another word for deuterogamy.

endogamy: (anthropology) The custom of marrying only within the limits of a clan or tribe.

exogamy: (anthropology) The custom by which a man is bound to take a wife outside his own clan or group.

hypergamy: marriage with a partner of higher social standing.

homogamy: marriage between partners of equal social status.

hypogamy: marriage of a woman into a lower caste or into a tribe of lower standing than her own.

misogamy: hatred of or opposition to marriage.

monogamy: The condition, rule, or custom of being married to only one person at a time. Once it meant not remarrying after the death of a first spouse.

pantagamy: A communal system of marriage in which all the men and women of a household or community are regarded as married to each other

polygamy: The practice or custom of having more than one spouse at the same time.

octogamy: Marriage with eight spouses (successively or at the same time). Even the much-married Wife of Bath had only five husbands, but several modern celebrities have achieved the status of octogamist.

Note on pantagamy:
In 1848, an American preacher, John Humphrey Noyes, founded a communal religious settlement at Oneida, New York. Noyes is credited with having coined the term “free love.” The community supported itself by manufacturing silverware, leather bags, woven hats, and garden furniture. Possessiveness and exclusive sexual relationships were frowned upon, with the result that members recognized something called “complex marriage”: any member was free to have sex with any other consenting member. The community was dissolved in 1881 and the practice of pantagamy ended. Its silver manufacturing operation went on to become Oneida Limited, a company still headquartered near the site of the defunct community, although the manufacturing has been outsourced abroad.

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4 Responses to “Marriage Words”

  • Steve

    As you might have already heard, polygamy is the only crime that carries its own punishment.

  • Dawn

    Not quite, Steve. There’s also polyandry, which should be punishable by a stretch in an asylum … or maybe polyandry is a stretch in an asylum?? 🙂

  • Neil

    It’s been a while since my last literature class. I remember The Wife of Bath having only five husbands. Alas, perhaps I’ve misremembered.

  • Maeve

    Neil,
    No, you’re right. She had five husbands at church door. I don’t know why I thought she had eight.

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