One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
nounusually the levirate
A custom of the ancient Hebrews and other peoples by which a man may be obliged to marry his brother's widow.as modifier ‘levirate marriages’
- ‘Such societies may also practice the levirate (widows marrying brothers or cousins of their deceased spouse).’
- ‘The institution of the levirate marriage made it possible that her fertility could build up the ‘house’ of her husband's family, while the birth of a child would provide the bond which would give her a secure place within the household.’
- ‘Clearly for her, the institution of the levirate was of no help, since she would not be able to bear a son for her dead husband's household.’
- ‘The firstborn child of this levirate marriage is considered the deceased's child.’
Early 18th century: from Latin levir ‘brother-in-law’ + -ate.
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