Dictionary.com

Why is it called “adultery” when being unfaithful isn’t a particularly “adult” thing to do?

A celebrity marriage mystery has raised some very grown-up questions about the words we use to talk about love, commitment and desire.

Gossip-mongers have been transfixed the past few days by the curious romantic situation of three TV stars: Elisabeth Moss of “Mad Men” wed Fred Armisen of “Saturday Night Live” (the guy who plays President Obama) in 2009 after a whirlwind romance. In the past few days Armisen has been spotted with fellow “SNL” cast member Abby Elliot behaving like more than friends.

This isn’t “People” magazine or “Dear Abby,” but perhaps we can use this salacious scenario as an excuse to look at a dilemma of language that is as enigmatic as the state of this celebrity marriage: the complexities of “adult” and “adultery.” How can such similar words have such different meanings?

Remarkably, the answer is that the words don’t share a common ancestor. “Adult” comes from the Latin verb adolescere, “to grow up, mature.” Students of Latin will understand what we mean when we say that adultus is the pluperfect of adolescere. Adultery, on the other hand, derives from a French word, avoutre, which in turn evolved from a distinct Latin verb, adulterare, “to corrupt.” The verb adulterate, “to debase or make impure by adding inferior materials or elements,” stems from the same source.

The sense of “adult” that means pornographic emerged as a kind of  reverse assumption that adult and adultery have more direct links than they do.

Let’s look at the dictionary definition of adultery: “voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and someone other than his or her lawful spouse.” In fact, there are two types: single adultery (with an unmarried person) and double adultery (with a married person.) Here is the definition of adult: “having attained full size and strength; grown up; mature.”

What conclusions can we draw regarding relationships from these twists of etymology? Maybe that a real-life definition of adult is the condition of being responsible for our choices, and that the choice of whom to love and honor is probably the most adult decision of all.

(On the topic of “Mad Men,” do you know what the “mad” in the title stands for? Here’s the answer.)

E Cigarette Reviews At ECigaretteReviews.me Help Educate Shoppers Regarding Brand Options.

Obesity, Fitness & Wellness Week October 29, 2011 The smoking public has been bombarded with facts and figures that highlight the negative effects of smoking. It is no wonder that the recent emergence of the e-cigarette is considered as the first good news in the smoking marketplace since the vending machine (see also Smoking). go to website e cigarette reviews

Primarily an electrical device, an electronic cigarette simulates tobacco smoking by producing nicotine-like smoke and flavor. Because e-cigarettes were created to omit the unwanted health risks of smoking, smokers no longer need to subject their bodies to over 2,000 chemicals to get the satisfying enjoyment of a cigarette. However, popping up everywhere are various brands of e-cigarettes and it can be a bit overwhelming for the discerning buyer to decide which brand to buy.

ECigaretteReviews.me strives to offer thorough reviews and information about electronic cigarettes. Featuring various e cigarette reviews, the website is aimed at helping people learn about their options when it comes to e cigarettes, and find the right merchants to do business with. here e cigarette reviews

ECigaretteReviews.me notes that when it comes to e-cigarettes, price is much of an issue as quality. As such, the review website helps people decide whether or not to going for good quality makes more sense.

In an effort to help individuals weigh the pros and cons of popular e-cigarette brands, ECigaretteReviews.me particularly features the Bull Smoke Ecigarette review, which touts emission of vapor that evaporates in the air – a response to social situations that ban smoke as there is no flame.

In its Green Smoke Electronic Cigarettes review, ECigaretteReviews.me emphasizes that the product not only looks like a standard cigarette, but is also much lighter than most others thereby giving it a more natural cigarette feel. According to the website, Green Smoke is arguably the most widely used electronic cigarette mainly because of the amount of smoke it produces.

The V2 Cigs Electronic Cigarette review, on the other hand, tackles the popularity of V2 Cigs, which is attributed to the affordability of its packages. Users also attest that the traditional flavors offered by the brand are perhaps the best in the industry when it comes to real tobacco.

ECigaretteReviews.me also features The Safe Cig Micro review, and talks about the product being smaller than most other electric cigarettes and giving more realistic sensation of actually smoking a real one.

Related LinksE Cigarette ReviewsE Cigarette ReviewBull Smoke Review

45 Comments

  1. metatrading.com -  July 9, 2013 - 9:21 pm

    I needed to thank you for this wonderful read!! I definitely loved every bit of it.
    I have you bookmarked to look at new stuff you post…

    Reply
  2. eczema on face -  February 28, 2012 - 3:25 pm

    Hi there! Someone in my Myspace group shared this website with us so I came to look it over. I’m definitely enjoying the information. I’m book-marking and will be tweeting this to my followers! Fantastic blog and fantastic style and design.

    Reply
  3. louis paiz -  December 15, 2010 - 10:27 am

    i think that the meaning is different than what all of us think.adultered is a change of state from pure into a second class when someone put water to milk that product is adultered and the one that does it is an adulterer.i dont think it has to do with the states of the human been such as infant adolecent and adult. it has more to do with the changing of a sacred union such as is marriage into something different.thank you

    Reply
  4. bonne' -  August 26, 2010 - 3:49 am

    hey a!!
    thanks for the correction there:)
    cheers woman!

    Reply
  5. Ferpius -  August 23, 2010 - 12:31 pm

    Good question Al. One for the collection.

    Reply
  6. alfa -  August 22, 2010 - 4:26 am

    Being adult is not corrupted but is able to calculate.

    Reply
  7. alfa -  August 21, 2010 - 10:21 pm

    The idea of faithful marriage as an adult is fine.

    Reply
  8. a -  August 21, 2010 - 6:13 pm

    also i think people who have it in them to be unfaithful to someone they claim to love r either very confused or simply incapable of love in either case they’e just sad souls worthy of nothing but pity

    Reply
  9. a -  August 21, 2010 - 6:11 pm

    bonne … u misunderstood wat i said :) my point was exactly wat u r saying. Notice the question mark in the quote u used. Like i said earlier being childish has nothing to do with being unfaithful. and i agree completely that beig unfathful is not forgiveable

    ….also i’m a woman :) and i’m sorry wat i wrote upset u so but obviouly u just misunderstood me

    Reply
  10. detective Columbo -  August 21, 2010 - 5:56 pm

    Have someone to cherish and love; thoughts stand alone.

    Reply
  11. hearing an owl hooting -  August 21, 2010 - 5:45 pm

    An adult by definition presumed in this article is responsible. Feeling of moments anewed is life. Being responsible and being adolescent are not exclusive. Adultry helps the aging people feel alive but not too productive overall whereas adulteration could work without debilitation as adultery might cause.

    Reply
  12. Richard Comaish -  August 21, 2010 - 12:21 pm

    I think there may be a teutonic influence creeping in in defining ‘adultus’ as ‘corrupted;’ other Europeans may prefer a translation more akin to ‘fortified.’

    Reply
  13. Alan Turner -  August 21, 2010 - 12:00 pm

    Do infants have as much fun in infancy as adults do in adultery?

    Reply
  14. Joe Schmidt -  August 21, 2010 - 10:31 am

    adultus is he pluperfect of adolescere????
    Any Latin lover around to correct the gentleman?

    Reply
  15. hksche2000 -  August 21, 2010 - 10:17 am

    “Students of Latin will understand what we mean when we say that adultus is the pluperfect of adolescere.”
    Better students of Latin know that adultus is the “participium perfectum = past participle” of adolescere, (i.e. adolesco, adolevi, ADULTUM). Pluperfect would be adoleveram :)
    Gotta love Latin!

    Reply
  16. noyb -  August 21, 2010 - 9:29 am

    A good book related to this topic is “Empires of the Word: A Language History of the World” by Nicholas Ostler (ISBN 978-0-06-093572-6).

    Reply
  17. Mari -  August 21, 2010 - 9:29 am

    OOps I left out the ‘e’ in adultery…

    Reply
  18. Mari -  August 21, 2010 - 9:27 am

    marriage and adultry are equal. Human beings place value judgments on it. It’s called polygamy in the animal kingdom. We are another branch of that same tree of life.

    Reply
  19. Marcus -  August 21, 2010 - 9:10 am

    Adultery is a sin in the bible…………
    being an adult is not.

    Reply
  20. Madeleine -  August 21, 2010 - 8:46 am

    Because this blog is linked to Dictionary.com, it IS correct to say that “adult” means “mature” because that is the literal meaning of the word. But to say that adultery is something that adults do is to focus exclusively on one’s physical ability to have sex (which, incidentally, adolescents can also do). A key characteristic of mature people is the ability to acknowledge responsibility for one’s own actions. Adultery is irresponsible because it focuses on the wants of the adulterer and disregards the impact of his or her actions on other members of the family and the community. We can forgive children and adolescents for being less than fully responsible, but adults are supposed to know better.

    Reply
  21. CaptiousNut -  August 21, 2010 - 8:32 am

    I am shocked, just SHOCKED, that adultery has some French roots!

    Reply
  22. Kelly Williams -  August 21, 2010 - 8:13 am

    According to the ten commandments, you should be married before having intercourse in the first place. Therefore, when you make a decision to get married you’re considered an adult when making that kind of decision. Being married doesn’t make you an adult.Some people are still not mature even then. I don’t think marriage should determine becoming an adult……maturity should!Even so,mature people still make mistakes!In today’s world, adultery shouldn’t be used a such a perfect word,as if adults are prefect. None of us are perfect ; Jesus is the ONLY perfect person I know.We’re all gonna make mistakes in life before dying….even if its adultery or something else!Even the best of us make mistakes,at some point,so……..NO ONE is perfect! This is my opinion.

    Reply
  23. Addison -  August 21, 2010 - 8:08 am

    Most of the commenters are obviously too dull to understand the point of this blog post. Anyway: interesting etymology.

    Reply
  24. hann -  August 21, 2010 - 8:05 am

    I appreciate the blogger’s researched explanation. Funny reading the comments arguing meanings… I have never considered Adult and Adultery to be related words. Not sure why anyone would. Particularly after being pointed to the Latin and French origins…

    Reply
  25. ADULTERY | BLOGCHI@mayopia.com -  August 21, 2010 - 8:01 am

    [...] Lady sings. — Some call intercourse having sex while others are making love. — The term adultery is grounds for divorce — but a horse is a horse of course. — Where is the [...]

    Reply
  26. Dimwick -  August 21, 2010 - 6:22 am

    Well for starters, “adultus” is the perfect passive participle and not pluperfect. Pluperfect requires the third principle part of the verb and then the imperfect of “sum” is added. For example the third principle part of “porto” I carry, is “portavi” then the pluperfect would be “portaveram” I had carried. There you are. Ave atque vale.

    Reply
  27. Richard Comaish -  August 21, 2010 - 4:36 am

    Not sure it’s a Good Thing that English is so influenced by a classical imperial pagan culture in which growing up seems to have been synonymous with being corrupted, tho. It sounds like either Original Sin, or the cause of all our problems.

    Reply
  28. Richard Comaish -  August 21, 2010 - 4:31 am

    I’ve always thought that ‘adultery’ was archaic for ‘adulteration.’ Why? Because it makes sense, in a way no other explanation does, and seems to conform to a pattern of archaic simpler non-Latinate English endings.

    Reply
  29. mac shake -  August 21, 2010 - 3:25 am

    Dan Draper only needs his soulmate to sort out his mess. I would like to see him happy in the next season, although his incessant affairs would be replaced by something else much less sexy but more intelligent.

    Reply
  30. bonne' -  August 21, 2010 - 2:39 am

    i would like to disagree with you..a.
    i quote you here-”that adultery is a childish (no so “adult” like) thing to do? i think being childish is VERY different from being unfaithful”
    im sorry..adultery is adultery.

    and adultery is not equal to childishness..so get that thought off your head.
    have you ever thought about the fact that ‘bad habits die hard?’..if as a “child”,you commit adultery(well you mentioned it to be childish rite?)..i cant help but be sure that you’d be the future adulterous much married man..isn’t it?
    the chain shall follow and your nature unquestioningly similar!
    nothing personal here..just a comment:)

    Reply
  31. The Word Guy -  August 21, 2010 - 1:28 am

    These “similar but not etymologically the same” words are always fascinating. The use of “adult” for pornographic materials may not have anything to do with the similarity to “adultery” but the fact that it is used as an adjective euphemistically in the sense of “pertaining to adults.” Even if “adultery” were to have never been around, using the adjectival “adult” would still make sense in this context.

    Reply
  32. kary -  August 20, 2010 - 10:12 pm

    this is so interesting!

    Reply
  33. Joy Corcoran -  August 20, 2010 - 9:30 pm

    It’s fascinating how words can come from different origins and wind up sounding the same, yet meaning opposite things. In our society, it takes a long time for an adult to become mature (although we age regardless) so there is adultery (which we engage in regardless). Adulterous behavior is both condemned and emulated in our media and social structures — the unloved/misunderstood married person at last finds “real” romance. Our media usually pokes fun at adult relationships — long marriages are repeatedly portrayed as boring and passionless, even though we all dream of a soulmate. Root words can help us understand meanings, but human beings and their passions escape easy definitions.

    Reply
  34. Jackie -  August 20, 2010 - 8:39 pm

    When you get married you’re considered an adult. So adultery isn’t something children do. Adultery is exactly an “adult” f***ng thing to do. “Adult” doesn’t exclusively mean “mature”. “Adultery” and “cheating” are conveniently obtuse words, and so can be used around children who have no idea what they mean, that’s why they’ve lasted in polite diction. Even if they once had dissimilar meanings, I would say the now common perception of their similar meanings (which is what changes dictionaries ya noe) is dead accurate.

    Reply
  35. Philo -  August 20, 2010 - 8:27 pm

    Has he ever found a true thing if there is anything true in the world?

    Reply
  36. a weeding out day -  August 20, 2010 - 8:23 pm

    Draper in “MadMen” seemingly happily married but is actually engaged himself with multiple love affairs outside the marriage. He flits from one after another and appears to be more fulfilled with them than with his wife. The man of an experience of war in the advertisment business, how could he reconcile his ever unfilled desire with the real life as a responsible adult?

    Reply
  37. Alan -  August 20, 2010 - 7:52 pm

    What a great explanation. Both etymologically interesting and thought provoking.

    Reply
  38. bella -  August 20, 2010 - 7:43 pm

    yeh, u answered u r own question

    Reply
  39. Dillan -  August 20, 2010 - 7:18 pm

    That’s totally whatev…adultery is adultery…that’s it…

    Reply
  40. a -  August 20, 2010 - 7:03 pm

    wats ur point? that adultery is a childish (no so “adult” like) thing to do? i think being childish is VERY different from being unfaithful …and i reeeally dont think the “adult” that means pornographic has anything to do with it being a prefix in the word adultery it simply has to do with the fact that pornographic material is for adult viewers. Were u drunk when u wrote this?

    Reply
  41. shareese -  August 20, 2010 - 6:25 pm

    hi iam shareese i just wanted to saii hi andmore lol gansta luv(pretty&paid)$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$4

    Reply
  42. Zac -  August 20, 2010 - 5:03 pm

    Well, even though the two words stem from 2 different verbs (adolescere, to grow up / mature & adulterare – to corrupt), there are some commonalities among them, for example adults are known for being more corrupt than children.

    Another thing here that is interesting is that nouns can be found in certain conjugations of verbs, which might suggest people think those two things are related. So someone who does the verb adolescere might be corrupt in the sense that children are known for innocence and adults for their lost innocence.

    You see these phenomena in other languages all the time too, for example in German, the third person conjugation of the verb machen (to do / make) is “macht,” which is the same pronunciation as “Macht,” the noun for “power” in German. So there’s a connection between doing things and having power.

    A lot of nouns can be found from the conjugations of verbs.

    Hope you find these musings a-musing,

    ~ Zac ~

    Reply
  43. David -  August 20, 2010 - 4:54 pm

    Um…Kathy? Was that a question or a statement?

    Reply
  44. Kathy -  August 20, 2010 - 4:32 pm

    Maybe you’ve answered your own question?

    Reply

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked (required):

Related articles

Back to Top