What Does Born Out of Wedlock Mean?

Born Out of Wedlock meaning

Definition: Born of parents who are not married.

This expression talks about children who are born to two people who are not married at the time, even if they do at a later date.

It is sometimes debated whether this includes being unmarried for the conception of the child, or just the birth.

The opposite is to be born during wedlock, or in wedlock, though it is less common to hear either of these phrases.

Origin of Born Out of Wedlock

meaning of out of wedlock Wedlock comes from the Middle English wedlok, and Old English wedlac, which both mean a pledge of an offering (wedd means pledge and lac means gift, offering).

A wedding is a pledge to offer one’s emotional and physical fidelity to one person for the rest of one’s life.

A child born within that pledge is said to be born in wedlock, which first began to appear in literature in the mid-19th century, as evidenced by this excerpt from Emma Dorothy Eliza Nevitte Southworth’s novel Tried For Her Life, from 1871:

  • She was born in lawful wedlock.

By 1912, we can see one of the earliest variations of out of wedlock, in Secret Memoirs: The Story of Louise, Crown Princess written by Henry W. Fischer:

  • The King of Saxony has six children by Louise, three boys and three girls, five born in wedlock, the youngest born without wedlock.

Examples of Born Out of Wedlock

define out of wedlockIn the modern day, people talk about children born out of wedlock.

By religious standards, it is considered a sin. However, in popular culture, it does not have the same social stigma that it once had.

More Examples

  • The judge also barred the state from classifying children born to a birth mother who is married to a same-sex spouse as born out of wedlock. –Courthouse News
  • After pointing out that “many young women have 5 and 6 children, many of whom are born out of wedlock” and “many of the fathers of those children have little involvement in the child’s upbringing”…Mr. Lightburn went on to say that “an FNM Government would introduce legislation which would enable a court to deduct from a father’s paycheck an amount to be paid directly to the mother of the child.” –Bahama Tribune


To be born out of wedlock means to be born to parents who are not married at the time of conception or birth.