The Macmillan dictionary has redefined the word “marriage” to include same-sex couples, and may change its definition of “husband” and “wife”.
The dictionary’s definition of the institution is now, “the relationship between two people who are husband and wife, or a similar relationship between people of the same sex”.
Its editor-in-chief said the organisation was monitoring changes to the use of “husband” and “wife” to see if it would change those words as well.
Michael Rundell said: “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.”
Macmillandictionary.com currently defines wife as “the woman that a man is married to”, and husband as “the man that a woman is married to”.
Under the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act, men in a gay marriage can in some circumstances be legally called ‘wives’ and women called ‘husbands’.
The change is in the official explanation of the controversial legislation.
It says the terms husbands and wives will in some circumstances mean people of either gender.
“This means that ‘husband’ here will be read as including a man or a woman in a marriage of a same sex couple, as well as a man married to a woman,” the explanation states.
And it adds: “In a similar way, ‘wife’ will be read as including a woman married to another woman or a man married to a man.
“The result is that this section is to be construed as including both male and female spouses in marriages of same sex couples.”
When the redefinition within the legislation was revealed, a spokesman for the Coalition for Marriage said: “We always knew the Government would tie itself in knots trying to redefine marriage, and this shows what a ridiculous mess they’ve created.
“This mangling of the English language shows what happens when politicians meddle with marriage. They’re in cloud cuckoo land.”