This in turn is derived from Old French, marier (to marry), and ultimately Latin, marītāre, meaning to provide with a husband or wife and marītāri meaning to get married.The adjective marīt-us -a, -um meaning matrimonial or nuptial could also be used in the masculine form as a noun for "husband" and in the feminine form for "wife".
In some cultures, marriage is recommended or considered to be compulsory before pursuing any sexual activity.
When defined broadly, marriage is considered a cultural universal. Individuals may marry for several reasons, including legal, social, libidinal, emotional, financial, spiritual, and religious purposes.
The anthropological handbook Notes and Queries (1951) defined marriage as "a union between a man and a woman such that children born to the woman are the recognized legitimate offspring of both partners." In recognition of a practice by the Nuer people of Sudan allowing women to act as a husband in certain circumstances (the ghost marriage), Kathleen Gough suggested modifying this to "a woman and one or more other persons." In an analysis of marriage among the Nayar, a polyandrous society in India, Gough found that the group lacked a husband role in the conventional sense; that unitary role in the west was divided between a non-resident "social father" of the woman's children, and her lovers who were the actual procreators.
None of these men had legal rights to the woman's child.
Civil marriage recognizes and creates the rights and obligations intrinsic to matrimony before the state.
When a marriage is performed with religious content under the auspices of a religious institution it is a religious marriage.
Some cultures allow the dissolution of marriage through divorce or annulment.
In some areas, child marriages and polygamy may occur in spite of national laws against the practice.
In the 21st century, there continue to be controversies regarding the legal status of married women, legal acceptance of or leniency towards violence within marriage (especially sexual violence), traditional marriage customs such as dowry and bride price, forced marriage, marriageable age, and criminalization of consensual behaviors such as premarital and extramarital sex.
The word "marriage" derives from Middle English mariage, which first appears in 1250–1300 CE.
These trends coincide with the broader human rights movement.