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levirate Syllabification: lev·i·rate
Pronunciation: /ˈlevərit/ /-ˌrāt/

Definition of levirate in English:


(usually 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
More example sentences
  • 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.


Early 18th century: from Latin levir 'brother-in-law' + -ate1.

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