Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adj. Of or being a legal marriage between a person of royal or noble birth and a partner of lower rank, in which it is agreed that no titles or estates of the royal or noble partner are to be shared by the partner of inferior rank nor by any of the offspring of the marriage.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. Designating a marriage (or the wife involved) between a man of higher rank and a woman of lower rank, often having various legal repercussions (typically that such a wife has no claim on the husband's possessions or title). It was not an aspect of English law, but was common in other royal houses, especially in Germany.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Pertaining to, in the manner of, or designating, a kind of marriage, called also left-handed marriage, between a man of superior rank and a woman of inferior, in which it is stipulated that neither the latter nor her children shall enjoy the rank or inherit the possessions of her husband.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • An epithet noting a marriage of a man of high rank to a woman of lower station which is contracted with a stipulation that neither she nor the issue, if any, shall claim his rank or property in consequence; pertaining to a marriage of a woman of high rank to a man of lower station: hence applied also to a wife or a husband who has agreed to such a marriage contract.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adj. (of marriages) of a marriage between one of royal or noble birth and one of lower rank; valid but with the understanding that the rank of the inferior remains unchanged and offspring do not succeed to titles or property of the superior

Etymologies

New Latin morganāticus, from Medieval Latin (mātrimōnium ad) morganāticam, (marriage for the) morning-gift, of Germanic origin.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Medieval Latin morganaticus, from morganaticum ("morning-gift"), from Proto-Germanic *murganagebō ( > Old English morgenġifu). (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • Is not this a sufficient explanation of the term morganatic being applied to marriages where the parties are of unequal rank?

    Notes and Queries, Number 45, September 7, 1850

  • There is talk of something called a morganatic marriage, which would be sort of a half marriage, using one of his titles.

    CNN Transcript May 30, 2001

  • When a prince or a member of a ruling house weds a woman of inferior rank, especially if her family is plebeian, the marriage is generally known as a morganatic marriage.

    The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume 9: Laprade-Mass Liturgy

  • This marriage was morganatic, that is, the lady does not take the name, rank and title of her husband.

    Face to Face with Kaiserism

  • They could be paired off in a kind of morganatic marriage; but it is customary in novels where the heroine has been too frolicsome, for her to get comfortably buried instead of happily married, -- and perhaps it is just as well.

    The Complete Works of Brann the Iconoclast, Volume 1.

  • I have married a beautiful and innocent woman, -- she is my lawful wife in the sight of God and man; yet you coolly propose to give me a second wife under the 'morganatic' law, which, as I view it, is merely a Royal excuse for bigamy!

    Temporal Power

  • They assumed the right to stand neutral between the government and rebellion, to contract a kind of morganatic marriage with Treason, by which they could enjoy the pleasant sin without the tedious responsibility, and to be traitors in everything but the vulgar contingency of hemp.

    The Writings of James Russell Lowell in Prose and Poetry, Volume V Political Essays

  • As M. de Talleyrand, one of her great admirers, said, she knew how to take a second edition of revenge, laying the two-edged blade of a sarcasm between the pairs in these "morganatic" unions.

    The Duchesse De Langeais

  • _symbolic_ customs common to all northern tribes, offers the following as the origin of this word "morganatic:" --

    Notes and Queries, Number 47, September 21, 1850

  • At first it was announced that the marriage would be morganatic, but Anita refused to accept anything less than the title of princess.

    The American Heiress | Edwardian Promenade

Comments

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  • from "That Faire Field of Enna" by Guy Davenport

    January 19, 2010

  • My backup financial strategy, assuming that my plan to join the Shakers and inherit all of their valuable furniture doesn't work out for some reason

    June 11, 2008

  • "The former morganatic spouse of Bloom is hastily removed in the Black Maria." Joyce, Ulysses, 15

    January 1, 2008

  • A type of marriage which can be contracted in certain countries, usually between persons of unequal social rank, which prevents the passage of the husband's titles and privileges to the wife and any children born of the marriage. It is also known as a left-handed marriage because in the wedding ceremony the groom held his bride's right hand with his left hand instead of his right.

    October 2, 2007

  • I suppose that to some extent this is accomplished these days using a prenup.

    June 26, 2007