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While translating a book on the aboriginal people of northwest India, I came across a tradition of marriages, where one brother–sister pair were married to another brother–sister pair, as well as many similar traditions.

They have a word for this kind of marriages in my native language, so I was wondering whether English has such a word, too. Does it?

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It's not a common European tradition, and so there is not a likely specific kinship term for it. But there is the musical "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers". It makes for a closeknit family reunion, but the cousins really shouldn't marry. –  Mitch Mar 25 '13 at 2:28
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@Mitch Those are double cousins, the same as half-siblings. An interesting variation is for two couples each to have a child, then divorce and marry each other from the other couple and then each pair have another child. Can those two children marry and procreate, and if so, what is the degree of relationship between them? –  tchrist Mar 25 '13 at 3:25
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May be my question was not clear: I meant there are two couples, where the bride on one side is the sister of groom on the other side. There is no cousin-like relationship here. –  Ketan Mar 25 '13 at 4:42
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This is a tradition widely prevalent in some Eastern cultures. It does happen, though incidentally and not as a tradition, in other cultures elsewhere as well. I am not aware of any definitive word in general English. However, ethnologists may have already recognized and formally defined it. –  Kris Mar 25 '13 at 5:43
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This tradition is there (may not be compulsory) in India and it's been followed for ages. Because India is vastly diversified, the languages people speak vary from state to state. I'm from Andhra Pradesh, in southeastern India, and speak Telugu. In our native language, we call this tradition Kunda Maarpidi, which means "exchanging pots". –  Naveen Mar 25 '13 at 7:10

3 Answers 3

up vote 8 down vote accepted

In English, the preferred term appears to be double in-law marriage. The two couples become double in-laws or simply double couples.

From Adverbial Subordination in English: A Functional Approach by María Jesús Pérez Quintero:

... morning, which would bore me), to a complete clause (e.g. Things then improved, which surprises me) or even to a series of clauses (e.g. Colin married my sister and I married his brother, which makes Colin and me double in-laws).

From Family Faith Stories by Ann Weems:

John's sister was married to Mary's brother, which made them double in-laws. John's sister died, probably of some fever because then, before 1860, John Griffin, who was also a doctor in the Cokesbury district, died, leaving two young boys.

From Thicker Than Water: Siblings and Their Relations, 1780-1920 by Leonore Davidoff:

Sisters and brothers married each other's brothers and sisters, becoming double in-laws. Such 'close marriages' doubled or trebled the kinship ties between their respective families (see Chapter 9). In the short run such doubling potentially ...

TV Tropes too has a page on double in-law marriages:

Bob and Janet are siblings. So are Spencer and Alice. Alice marries Bob, while Janet falls in love with Spencer. This would also work if Alice and Janet were sisters, and Bob and Spencer were brothers. Then Alice would marry one brother, and Janet would marry the other. In other words, a pair of siblings marry another pair of siblings. Someone marries the sibling of their own sibling's spouse.

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Does this term also work for two brothers marrying two sisters? Because that case seems to be excluded by what the OP is asking (though that has not been clarified) –  Mitch Mar 25 '13 at 16:14
    
@Mitch Based on the excerpts in my answer, I'd say that it works for all cases of siblings marrying siblings. –  coleopterist Mar 25 '13 at 16:43
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Yes, it works whether sisters from one family marry brothers of the other family, or if the sibling pairs are opposite-sex. This pattern of marriage was much more common in Colonial America than today. Among many practical reasons, The newlywed couples were then able to homestead in adjoining land parcels. Check Ancestry.com, there are many examples. –  Theresa Oct 4 at 1:59

Language equivalents exist only if cultural equivalents exist. This is a phenomenon that seems prevalent in Indian culture; not so much in others'. There is no equivalent in the English language.

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Two words and a historical note, none of which definitively answer the OP's question.

A term which is perhaps broader than you desire is Endogamy, or marriage within a specific group. However, this does not restrict the marriage to brother/sister pairs.

A Sororate marriage refers to one man marrying a woman and her sister, usually after the woman has died or is proven infertile. (It may be helpful to peruse this list of Types of Marriages.)

On a side note, the eponymous Siamese Twins, Chang and Eng Bunker, married sisters Adelaide Yates and Sarah Anne Yates. They were married in a single ceremony on April 13, 1843. They had 21 children in this marriage-type-without-a-name. Their children were double first cousins.

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