Just a brief question about marriage-related words in English.

You see, in Russian language we have two words to describe "state of being in marriage", one for man (женатый мужчина = married man), and different word for woman (замужняя женщина = married woman).

In English, so far as I know, there is no such variations. Am I right?

In Russian we can make some jokes or give an extra meaning, based on using these two words, for example one can say "замужний мужчина", which may mean:

  • man who married on strong, masculine, or feminist-like woman;

  • man who spend too many time with one particular man (gay-related joke);

  • real gay couple (gay marriage are prohibited in Russia, so we use in more "figurative" sense)

  • and so on...

Same is true for "женатая женщина".

So I am wondering, does English have a special word to describe:

  • Man who married masculine (strong, independent) woman

  • Woman who married feminine (weak, spineless) man

  • Man who married man

  • Woman who married woman

I think we can use "lesbians couple" and "gay couple" words in third and forth cases, but they describe more "state of being the lovers", not "state of being in a marriage", are they?

Maybe some idioms exist?


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    Many Anglophones would think the distinctions you're trying to make are impolite, sexist, or otherwise unsuitable for general use today. Idiomatic expressions you might find relevant in this area is She wears the trousers (in their home) and He's henpecked, but I'd advise you to use caution to avoid offending people by promoting an outdated chauvinistic perspective. Commented May 12, 2017 at 15:08
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    I can't think of a term that fits your description exactly, but there are may be some related idioms that could be of interest. One that popped into my head is kept man, which is defined by YD as "a man, supported financially by a female lover (usually a married woman)." (Don't misread my comment, however – I'm not saying that all "kept men" are weak or spineless; I'll echo the sentiments made by @FumbleFingers in that regard.)
    – J.R.
    Commented May 12, 2017 at 15:08
  • 1
    Perhaps a henpecked husband and a domineering wife?
    – Davo
    Commented May 12, 2017 at 15:20
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    I know these phrases and idioms may be impolite or offending (absolutely same thing in Russian), and I am not going to use them here and there. Just would like to know about real-life idioms or words-at-play one can use to describe such relationships. And don't get me wrong, I do not trying to nitpick it deep or sound like a sexist or conservative, and sorry if my curiosity offended you or made you think wrong about me, it was unintended. Thank you all =)
    – Mark
    Commented May 12, 2017 at 15:29
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    We call this married for all cases you've described. There's just one word for them, because they're all the same thing.
    – user428517
    Commented May 12, 2017 at 18:10

3 Answers 3


As Peter mentions, in general English has no distinction between male and female with verbs relating to marriage or relationships. For example, "married", "dating", "seeing each other", "in a relationship", "partners", "having a fling", "friends with benefits", "casual sex", "one-night stand", and many others, all are gender-neutral and can apply equally to straight or gay couples.

However there are many words to characterize the nuances of married life, many of which are colloquial or vulgar. Aside from the basic honorifics (Mr., Mrs. Miss, and Ms.) there are these:

A "henpecked" husband is one whose wife constantly nags him and orders him around, and who is generally the subordinate in the relationship. The vulgar term is "whipped", short for "pussy-whipped", although this can apply to married or unmarried men in a relationship with a demanding woman.

A "matriarch" is a strong woman who is the head of a (usually large) family, and who is usually controlling. A "patriarch" is similar for men, although there can be some religious overtones, as with the male leader of a religious group.

For gay male couples, there is often some distinction between the "top" and the "bottom" in the relationship.. More crudely this can be referred to using baseball metaphors as "pitcher" and "catcher".

A man who supports a (often much younger) woman financially, usually as his mistress, would be called a "sugar daddy". A woman who is in a relationship simply because the other person is wealthy would be called a "gold-digger". Note these terms can also be used for the opposite gender ("sugar momma/mommy"), or for gay relationships.

As far as I know there is no special term for a homosexual marriage. We just call it a "marriage". Since it's not always clear how to refer to the two people in the marriage, "partner" is a good catch-all term instead of "husband" or "wife". Note "partner"can also be used for heterosexual relationships, married or otherwise, so it can be somewhat ambiguous.

(Edit): Or "spouse" for a married couple. (thanks BradC!)

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    Don't forget "spouse" as a gender-neutral term (vs husband or wife).
    – BradC
    Commented May 12, 2017 at 18:16
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    "Partner" can also mean a business associate (with no implication of any romantic or sexual attachment). "Boyfriend" and "girlfriend" work equally well for (unmarried) gay relationships as for (unmarried) straight relationships, but women sometimes refer to each other as their "girlfriends" in a non-romantic sense (men doing this is rare to nonexistent in my experience).
    – Kevin
    Commented May 13, 2017 at 0:18

English does not make the same distinction between male and female gendered nouns. For example in French there is "le" and "la", and in German there is "die" and "der", this does not happen in English.

In marriage, if Lisa married David Klein, in many Slavic languages her name would become Lisa Klein"ova". This does not happen in English, it would simply be "Lisa Klein". For "state of being in marriage", English only has "Mrs." and "Miss" for women as titles, whereas French has "madame" and "mademoiselle", but even "madame" may be ambiguous.

Usually in English, the description of marriage is given by additional surrounding context (additional adjectives such as "gay", "straight", "vanilla") as opposed to using a specific noun. However, there is the word "cuckhold" which has certain power/sexual/fetish meanings for a husband.

  • 1
    Thank you for comment, especially for "Mrs" and "Miss" -part. I honestly forgot about such thing in English. In Russian, as you stated absolutely correctly, woman mostly takes man's surname with extra added suffix at the end after the wedding, and does not receive any "Mrs" and "Miss" -thing. It may be not related with main question I asked, but the good observation I totally forgot about. Thank you.
    – Mark
    Commented May 12, 2017 at 15:54
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    @Mark Many women today use "Ms.", which is similar to the masculine "Mr." in that it doesn't say anything about married status. Also, I'd recommend steering far away from using "cuckhold" until you really understand all its implications, this is a somewhat uncommon term, but also very sexually charged/offensive, it literally means "a man who's wife flaunts her extramarital sexual conquests in front of him".
    – BradC
    Commented May 12, 2017 at 18:14
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    Occasionally, especially in older and legalistic documents, you may see the form "Mrs. John Smith" to refer to the wife of John Smith. However, some women may not like this, so I would recommend writing "Ms. Smith" unless you know she wants to be addressed in that fashion.
    – Kevin
    Commented May 13, 2017 at 0:23

English has almost no gender-specific adjectives, so you would say "married" either way. A masculine woman (that shows stereotypically male traits) would be referred to as a "tomboy". Even as a native speaker I find the titles for females confusing, so here's a cheat sheet:

Miss: Unmarried Woman (young, 30 and under)

Mrs.: Married Woman

Ms.: Married Woman that kept her maiden name, divorced woman, older unmarried woman (30's and up)

  • For any non-native speakers coming across this later the "Ms." explanation in this answer isn't quite correct. "Ms." has absolutely no connotation about age or marital status at all. You can safely refer to any female as "Ms." Commented Oct 4, 2022 at 21:34

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