I was surprised to see "his husband" in the Cambridge dictionary’s entry for compliment:

picture of Cambdige Dictionary definition of compliment

He complained that his husband never paid him any compliments anymore.

Isn't that a mistake? Or is Cambridge talking about something homosexual?

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – tchrist Aug 12 '18 at 19:59
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    Not sure why you made this a question about grammar. From the standpoint of grammar, "his X" is equally corrrect for absolulely any noun you replace X with. – RegDwigнt Aug 12 '18 at 22:22
  • @RegDwigнt Because I wanted it to be about the English language. – tchrist Aug 12 '18 at 23:21
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    Not exactly an answer, but look at these two sentences: At night I heard a dog bark versus At mathematics I heard a smell glow. They have the same structure and hence are both grammatically correct (or both incorrect, but they are indeed correct). So, why do you think should her husband be valid, but his husband not, if his and her have the same grammatical function? – rexkogitans Aug 13 '18 at 5:40
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    In English, there is no grammatical gender on nouns, so there is no grammatical agreement. That is, grammatically speaking, 'his husband' is just fine. One might have semantic problems with it, if you think of males as not allowed to have husbands, but that is a semantic/cultural thing that is out side of grammar. In contrast, adjectives do agree with nouns for number, so 'two bird' is ungrammatical (both the noun and adjective would have the same singular or plural grammar. Number agreement is enforced in the grammar. – Mitch Aug 22 '18 at 16:12

The answer to the question “Is ‘his husband’ valid?” (in the English language) is “Yes, yes it is” — although as the OED notes, the word husband was historically...

Used exclusively with reference to mixed-sex marriages until the late 20th cent., and in this context taken as correlative to wife.

So that must be how you were thinking of it. However, we’re now past the late 20th century, and other uses exist.

Moreover, the first citation for ‘his husband’ in the OED’s entry for husband is from more than four hundred years ago in 1602, so it can hardly be called a uniquely recent collocation. But see the indented note in each of the three entries below:

2a. The (or a) male partner in a marriage; esp. a married man considered in relation to his spouse. Also fig. of Christ in his relationship to the Church or to an individual soul.

Used exclusively with reference to mixed-sex marriages until the late 20th cent., and in this context taken as correlative to wife.

  • 2001 Newsweek (Nexis) 4 June 18
    Last April Wabeke and Swinkels were married, husband and husband, under the new Dutch law.
  • 2013 Vanity Fair June 113/1
    A woman is killed by her husband, her boyfriend, or her same-sex partner.

2b. In other (esp. same-sex) relationships in which the two partners are regarded as occupying roles analogous to those in a traditional mixed-sex marriage: the person assuming the role regarded as more stereotypically masculine, i.e. as being equivalent to that of the husband (sense 2a). Cf. wife n. 7a.

Earliest with reference to the ‘marriages’ with male favourites allegedly entered into by some Roman emperors. In later use often with reference to relationships between male prison inmates.

  • 1602 T. North tr. S. Goulart Lives Epaminondas, Philip of Macedon 109
    He [sc. the emperor Nero] maried one Pythagoras as his husband.

  • 1664 E. Leigh Analecta Caesarum Romanorum 230
    He [sc. Helagabalus] so favoured Aurelius Zoticus, that himself commanded him to be taken..for the Emperors husband.

  • 1761 J. Mills tr. J. B. L. Crevier Hist. Rom. Emperors VIII. xxiii. 255
    His [sc. Helagabalus'] husband was one Hierocles, originally a Carian slave.

  • 1966 Transition 27 33/1
    One partner..was put in the punishment cells. His ‘husband’ could not get to him.

  • 2004 M. Epprecht Hungochani 94
    Because of a moral obligation to provide for all of their wyfies fairly..most prison husbands remain serially monogamous.

Today husband is also used in a more inclusive way:

2c. Used to denote either partner in a (generally long-term) relationship between two men.

Here referring to a relationship other than a marriage, or (in later use) to a relationship regardless of whether or not it is a marriage. For uses explicitly referring to men who are married to one another see sense 2a.

  • 1946 J. Vining Diary 23 Aug. in Gay Diary (1980) II. 1
    There's someone on the phone..and he wants to know if his husband’s here.
  • 1957 Jet 5 Dec. 42
    One of the effeminate male owners [of the shop] slapped a guest for making a pass at his ‘husband’.
  • 1994 Advocate 28 June 71/3
    I thought of course I would take my lover [to the party], whom I refer to as my husband, since I find the word lover far too personal.
  • 2007 J. Perez Soulfully Gay iv. 183
    Harvey..lives in Las Vegas with his husband.

Notice how some earlier uses put ‘scare quotes’ around the word husband, but how the later ones do not. This is an indication of the writer’s acceptance of the term used in this way as the male partner of a male, or at least of that writer’s perception of how the word will be understood by the reader.

A Cautionary Note for Learners

As an English language learner, you should probably understand that the word homosexual you used in your question can carry clinical or pejorative connotations, and that the term same-sex may be less likely to do so.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – tchrist Aug 13 '18 at 12:19

In certain jurisdictions (27 countries in June 2018), same-sex marriages have the same legal status as different-sex ones. In these, which include the United Kingdom, in which Cambridge Dictionaries is based, a woman may therefore have a wife, and a man a husband.

27 countries where same-sex marriages are legally recognised


Yes, "his husband" is grammatically valid, based upon the etymology given below.

Husband = Hus + band(House + bound.

Anglo and Saxon dictionary.

From 'Bonda'>(binda = the verb to bind).
Bonda, an ; m. [bond bound, one bound by rules, from bindan to bind] A husband, an householder, a master of a family.

Hus = house.
Housebreak should be "Husbreak".

Husbrec, hus-bryce house-break

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    Can you comment for the OP as to the grammaticality of using the word 'his' with this? All you've done is give an etymology of one word. – Mitch Aug 12 '18 at 15:27
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    You're not saying anything wrong, but this is still not an answer for the OP and risks downvoting or deletion. – Mitch Aug 12 '18 at 16:18
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    @SylomunWeah You just need to edit your answer post so that it actually contains your answer. As of now, you have given an answer to the question, but you haven't put it into your answer post. – Tanner Swett Aug 12 '18 at 22:03
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    I don't understand what a word’s etymology has to do with grammar. – tchrist Aug 12 '18 at 23:51
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    @SylomunWeah You don't seem to have understood how the Stack Exchange question-and-answer model works. I encourage you to visit our Help Center and also to take our site tour. We are not a discussion site or a forum. We expect answers to be answers, not random "oh by the way here's this ancillary bit of trivia that doesn't address the question in any way" posts masquerading as answers when they are merely etymological copy-paste verbiage. Please stop doing that. – tchrist Aug 13 '18 at 16:43

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