Definition of levirate in English:


Pronunciation /ˈlev(ə)rət/ /ˈlɛv(ə)rət/ /ˈlevəˌrāt/ /ˈlɛvəˌreɪt/

See synonyms for levirate


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’
    • ‘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.