Macmillandictionary.com has become the first dictionary in Britain to revise the definition, reflecting the change in the country's law allowing same sex couples to marry. (Agencies)
The definition of "marriage" now reads: "The relationship between two people who are husband and wife, or a similar relationship between people of the same sex." The second clause has been newly added.
The change follows the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill through its crucial reading in the House of Lords on July 15 and accompanies other changes in a significant update to the dictionary, a leading newspaper reported.
Macmillandictionary.com editor-in-chief Michael Rundell said the change to the definition of "marriage" might suggest a future redefining of the terms "husband" and "wife".
"In a same sex relationship two men are probably not going to refer to themselves as 'wife', but if it's two women, they might, so we need to keep an eye on that," he said.
The Macmillandictionary.com definition of wife is "the woman that a man is married to", and husband is "the man that a woman is married to".
Changes to the official definitions of words are guided by analysis of their usage.
"We have a corpus of two billion words, a huge collection of text including books, magazines and recorded speech, which we analyze in great detail to understand frequent and common usage," Rundell said.
However the Oxford English Dictionary (OED.com), whose dictionary definitions already include references to same sex marriage, said it "would continue to monitor the way in which the word marriage is used", adding that "dictionaries reflect changes in the use of language, rather than changes in law".
The OED definition of "marriage" is "the condition of being a husband or wife; the relation between persons married to each other; matrimony", with a supplementary line which says "the term is now sometimes used with reference to long-term relationships between partners of the same sex".
Its definitions of husband and wife are set to be revised as part of an ongoing programme, but for now remain less than up-to-date, the report said.
Macmillandictionary.com has become the first dictionary in Britain to revise the definition, reflecting the change in the country's law allowing same sex couples to marry.