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Oxford Dictionary officially changes marriage definition to include gay couples

World's most renowned dictionary of the English language and several other British dictionaries have changed their definition after England and Wales made same-sex marriage law
The definition of 'marriage' has been offiically changed to include gay couples in the Oxford English Dictionary.
Photo by Scott Nunn.

The world’s most renowned dictionary of the English language has officially changed the definition of ‘marriage’ to include gay people.

Oxford English Dictionary online now acknowledges marriage is no longer defined as being between a man and a woman.

Future paper editions published of the dictionary will have the new, updated definition of the word.

Compilers for the OED have added ‘the relation between persons married to each other’ to its definition ‘the condition of being a husband or wife.’

It now has the note ‘the term is now sometimes used with reference to long-term relationships between partners of the same sex.’

When Gay Star News revealed the OED was planning the change in July, an Oxford University Press spokeswoman said they would be looking into the way the word ‘marriage’ changes as the law is introduced.

‘We continually monitor the words in our dictionaries, paying particular attention to those words whose usage is shifting, so yes, this will happen with marriage,’ she said.

‘It’s worth pointing out that, as the OED is distinct from other dictionaries in being a historical record of the language, meanings of the past will remain, even while language changes and new ones are added.’

Other British dictionaries have made similar changes.

Collins has amended its definition from the legal union or contract ‘made by a man and a woman to live as husband and wife’ to one ‘made by two people to live together.’

Macmillan’s definition of marriage is a ‘relationship between two people who are husband or wife’. But it now includes an addendum saying it could also mean a similar relationship between two people of same sex.

Queen Elizabeth II passed same-sex marriage in England and Wales into law on 17 July. The first gay weddings are expected to take place in summer 2014.

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Changes to dictionaries like the OED are not official changes, nor do they reflect the proper or improper ways to use a word -- dictionaries only change based on the changes that are observed out in the public use of language. The OED's changes of how marriage is used does not make the change official.. only in terms of the way it has been observed to have been used. "Future editions" as you put it will also change based on how words are observed to be used -- if marriage is not used frequently with context of gay people, it will not be in future editions, but that does not in any way make a statement of the official or unofficial word/usage status of any word.

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