AskDefine | Define fornicate

Dictionary Definition

fornicate v : have sex without being married

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  1. Shaped like or arch or vault; resembling a fornix.

Derived terms

Extensive Definition

Fornication, or simple fornication, is a term which refers to consensual sexual intercourse between two persons not married to each other. In contrast adultery is consensual sex where one or both of the partners are married to someone else.
The origin of the word derives from Latin. The word fornix means "an archway" or "vault" (in Rome, prostitutes could be solicited there). More directly, fornicatio means "done in the archway"; thus a euphemism for prostitution.
Fornication is dealt with differently in various religions, societies and cultures.


For a broad overview, see Religion and sexuality.


The laws on fornication have historically been tied with religion and the legal and political traditions within the particular jurisdiction. In the common law countries (England, USA, Canada, Australia, etc.), the Courts were never interested in punishing subjects for purely private moral deviations - even incest - although sodomy was an exception. What laws did exist were purely statutory. In many other countries, however, there have been attempts to secularize constitutions, and laws differ greatly from country to country. Most Western countries and some secular Muslim countries like Turkey and Azerbaijan have no laws against fornication if both parties are above the age of consent.

Jurisdictions within the United States of America

Premarital sexual relations were viewed as a matter of private morality, and, as such, were never viewed as criminal offenses against the common law. This legal position was inherited by the United States from England. Later, some jurisdictions, a total of 16 in the Southern and Eastern United States, as well as the State of Wisconsin, passed statutes creating the offense of "fornication" that prohibited (vaginal) sexual intercourse between two unmarried persons of the opposite sex. Most of these laws either were repealed, were not enforced, or were struck down by the courts in several States as being odious to their state Constitutions. See also State v. Saunders, 381 A.2d 333 (N.J. 1977), Martin v. Ziherl, 607 S.E.2d 367 (Va. 2005).
With respect to sexual relations between persons of the same sex, such acts may be prohibited under criminal laws defining the offense of "sodomy," rather than the laws defining the offense of "fornication." The U.S. Supreme Court decision in Lawrence v. Texas (2003) rendered the states' remaining laws related to "sodomy" unconstitutional. Lawrence v. Texas is also presumed by many to invalidate laws prohibiting fornication, as the decision declared sodomy laws unconstitutional due to the interference of such laws with private, consensual, non-commercial intimate relations between unrelated adults, and therefore are odious to the rights of liberty and privacy, such rights being retained by the people of the United States. However, because Lawrence only explicitly declared sodomy laws unconstitutional, some states continue to enforce laws prohibiting fornication. In Utah, "fornication" is a class B misdemeanor.
In recent years, the morality of premarital sex has become a politically divisive issue in the United States, and discouraging premarital sex is the basis for the types of "abstinence-only" sex education programs supported by President George W. Bush and many conservative members of the United States Congress. The policy is opposed by groups such as Planned Parenthood, many moderate and liberal members of Congress, scientists who believe the programs to be ineffective, and citizens who believe that liberty and privacy, especially in the most intimate spaces of life, are rights retained by the people, under the Constitution of the United States. The debate over abstinence-only sex education has brought the issue of premarital sex to the forefront of what conservative politicians call the "Culture Wars."

Fornication in Islam

Islam teaches that the greatest thing that destroys the guard of chastity is fornication, so it is one of the biggest sins and greatest transgressions. Ibn Al-Qayyim said,
"In His book, Allah specifically labelled the association of partners with Him, fornication and homosexuality with impurity and filth. No sin is worse for the heart and religion than those two great sins, fornication and homosexuality, and for them is a characteristic in distancing the heart from Allah. If the heart acknowledged them, it is distanced from Allah."
Islam teaches that Allah has warned muslims against fornication and described its awful description and its result of utter destruction. There are many sayings in the Quran, ascribed to Allah, about fornication, some of which are the following:
"And those who invoke not any other God along with Allah, nor kill such person as Allah has forbidden, except for just cause, nor commit illegal sexual intercourse and whoever does this shall receive the punishment. The torment will be doubled to him on the Day of Resurrection, and he will abide there in disgrace. Except those who repent and believe (in Islamic Monotheism) and do righteous deeds." (Quran: Al-Furqan 25:68)
"And come not near to the unlawful sexual intercourse. Verily, it is a transgression of Allah’s limits, and an evil way." (Quran: Al-Israa 17:32)
"The adulterer marries not but an adulteress or a Mushrikah (polytheist woman) and the adulteress none marries her except an adulterer or a Mushrik (polytheist man). Such a thing is forbidden to the believers." (Quran: An-Noor 24:3)
The Prophet Muhammad also preached about fornication. Some of the most well known ones are,
"My nation will remain well as long as there is not a prevalence of children born out of wedlock, and if there is such a prevalence they will be on the point of receiving Allah’s punishment."
"If there is a prevalence of fornication and usury in a nation, they have legitimised for themselves the punishment (of Allah)."
The Prophet Muhammad once talked about when he was taken by the Angel Jibrail to see the hellfire and its inhabitants. He narrated to his companions,
"...and so we set out and came to something like a kiln narrow at the top and wide at the bottom, there came from it sounds and voices. He said, 'We looked inside, and there were naked men and women and there would rise up fire from beneath them and when it reached them, they screamed.' I said, 'Who are these people, O Jibrail?' He said, 'These are the fornicators.'"

Islamic Countries

Fornication is a crime in some Muslim countries, and is often harshly punished. However, there are some exceptions. In Pakistan, for example, occasionally a charge is filed in order to prevent the accused from leaving the jurisdiction (for instance it is often used against drug smugglers, against whom it may not be possible to show a prima facie case for trial, but a charge of fornication, which requires a lower threshold, can be filed in the interim as the investigation unfolds.) In certain countries where all Islamic laws are enforced, such as Iran and Saudi Arabia, fornication is punishable by lashings. This is in contrast to adultery, in which one (or both) of the parties is married, where the punishment would be death by stoning.
Historically speaking, corporal punishment is used for sexual crimes in the Abrahamic faiths. Fornication toward someone else's woman (not a wife or a couple) is treated as a violation of property right, the equivalent of rape or stealing.


fornicate in Czech: Smilstvo
fornicate in German: Unzucht
fornicate in Spanish: Fornicación
fornicate in French: Fornication
fornicate in Interlingua (International Auxiliary Language Association): Fornication
fornicate in Italian: Fornicazione
fornicate in Portuguese: Fornicação
fornicate in Russian: Любодеяние
fornicate in Simple English: Fornication
fornicate in Slovak: Smilstvo
fornicate in Finnish: Haureus
fornicate in Swedish: Otukt
fornicate in Turkish: Zina
fornicate in Chinese: 婚前性行為

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

ball, be intimate, be promiscuous, chase women, cohabit, come together, commit adultery, copulate, couple, cover, debauch, diddle, dissipate, frig, grovel, have sex, have sexual relations, lay, lie with, make it with, make love, make out, mate, mount, philander, rake, screw, serve, service, sleep around, sleep with, swing, wallow, wanton, whore, womanize
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