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They are свадьба, женитьба, and замужество. According to wiktionary, женитьба is marriage from a man's perspective (despite being feminine) and замужество a woman's (despite being neuter).

Is it seriously necessary to differentiate? More important, do Russians feel the need to differentiate? If I confused one meaning with another, would a Russian speaker pick that up and say 'you should have used this other word, sounds more natural'.

I'm guessing that свадьба is used when it doesn't matter or your referring to marriage in a neutral/objective stance. Is this wrong?

My final question would be are there any other words like this or does it not really matter and I'm blowing it out of proportion? I'm sorry if it seems like a strange question but I can't think of any English words that work like this.

  • When differentiation is despised a neutral вступать в/заключать брак can be used. But when and if same sex marriages become the norm in these post-Soviet territories, all these words will come in very handy and start being used both ways он вышел замуж, она женилась allowing differentiation based on sexual identity and thus satisfying the need in transmission more nuanced information – Баян Купи-ка Sep 7 '16 at 10:31
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    Since женитьба and замужество are words for abstract concepts their gender has nothing to do with the sex of persons involved. To take an example from English, "pregnancy" is neuter (we refer to it as "it") even though only women are ever pregnant. – David42 Sep 7 '16 at 13:32
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    "Is it seriously necessary" to have (grammatical) gender? Or tenses? Or even plural? There are languages that get along without these concepts, and from their point of view these are strange and unnecessary complications. But from the opposite viewpoint it may seem strange how a language can function without them. There is no 'need' per se, it just happens. – Zeus Sep 9 '16 at 1:36
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    There are two different words for being married in Russian, one for each party's perspective, which is just a one of the language's many peculiarities. For the same reason only a man can father a child and take a paternity leave to do that. If a woman would try to do the same, she would end up being on a maternity leave mothering her child, because being a parent requires two different words for two different genders's perspective in English as well. – Quassnoi Sep 9 '16 at 22:29
  • I disagree on its and It's but..... to the last comment that the writer cannot think of any examples like this in English. Mostly we can think of a blanket term like vehicle or milk and list types, but one I thought of is the complex of agricultural and stock raising known variously as farms, ranches, plantations, vineyards...... more? There is no blanket term and we do differentiate but someone might confuse a farm with a ranch, a plantation with a farm, etc. – pbarrett Sep 13 '16 at 17:37
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This terminology isn't specific to Russian language. It's rather a common point for the whole Slavic culture.

Замужество ultimately means a status of a married woman who lives at her husband's place (see patrilocal residence). Note that living at wife's house was considered improper, so there even exists a specific term "примак".

On the other hand, Женитьба means "getting" a wife, which in turn changes man's social status.

Свадьба is a wedding ceremony, but unlike English "marriage" Russian word refers to the whole families which now become cognate. So "свадьба" is "connection of families" which requires absolutely different word.

Брак is of the same root as "брать" (to take) which is probably due to practice of bride kidnapping. Though this meaning was lost long time ago and now "брак" is just an official term for marriage.

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We have more words related to the topic.Брак (wedlock,marriage ) is an official term.The verb is вступить в брак. It is related to both parties (a man and a woman ) Супружество (spousehood ) is the state of being married.

ЖЕНИ́ТЬСЯ, женюсь, женишься; совер. и несовер. perfective and imperfective. 1. на ком. О мужчине: вступить (-пать) в брак of a man: to marry somebody.1 . Сын женится. 2. (ед. не употр.) (singular not used) to marry (of a couple.). Вступить (-пать) в брак1 (разг.). Сосед с соседкой женятся. My neighbours are going to marry.

The verb refers either to a man (when used in the singular) or to a couple (a man and a woman ) when used in the plural.

So,the same usage applies to the noun.

Женитьба — ж. 1. Вступление мужчины в брак. 2. Брачный союз мужчины с женщиной. Толковый словарь Ефремовой. Т. Ф. Ефремова. 2000 …

Thus,you can say его женитьба,брак, её замужество,брак, их женитьба,брак Замужество is for women only. Свадьба (wedding ) refers to the selebration of this happy event,usually их свадьба. You shouldn't misuse them in order not to be corrected.We do differentiate these words.

  • I suggest translating the definitions. The second could be "Женитьба--f. 1. A man's entry into the married state. 2. The marital union of a man and a woman." I am having trouble parsing the first definition and do not know what is meant by "пать". – David42 Sep 7 '16 at 13:46
  • @DavidC, they are suffixes вступить perfective, вступать imperfective. – V.V. Sep 7 '16 at 14:04
  • Ah, OK. I have submitted an edit changing "пать" to "-пать" to make this clearer. I am still confused by the second and third instances of the digit "1". The sequence goes 1, 1, 2, 1. – David42 Sep 7 '16 at 15:10
  • Meaning 1 example 1,meaning 2,example 1.That really doesn't matter much, just meaning 1 meaning 2.Thank you for your help. – V.V. Sep 7 '16 at 15:48
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    Spousehood is a seldom-used word which appears only in larger dictionaries such as Merriam-Webster's Unabridged Dictionary. I suggested it because it combines a well understood word "spouse" with a well-understood suffix "-hood". Its meaning is instantly understandable as "the state of one who is a spouse" by analogy with more familiar words such as "fatherhood", "motherhood", and "widowhood". In contrast almost no one knows the meaning of the word "conjugal" let alone the nebulous "conjugality". – David42 Sep 9 '16 at 19:55
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Cвадьба is a ceremony of getting married, better translation would be wedding. If you mean marriage you could use word брак without concern of direction. Also женитьба describes matchmaking from man's perspective — a man getting a wife(женаженитьба). And замужество is a state of being married, from a woman's perspective — wife behind a husband за мужем.

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    Doesn't женитьба describe the "entry into the married state"? Matchmaking is сводничество. – David42 Sep 7 '16 at 13:28
  • @DavidC I think it's synonyms – Bluesboy Sep 7 '16 at 14:30
  • How can they be synonyms if one occurs months or even years before the other? – David42 Sep 7 '16 at 15:00
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The existing answers provide a wealth of interesting information. But the questioner is a beginner and so needs a simple guide to talking about marriage and weddings. Here is my attempt:

The Most Important Words About Weddings

брак--the institution of marriage; a specific marriage

вступить в брак--to get married; literally "to enter into marriage", "to enter into matrimony"

ЗАГС--government office where civil marriage ceremonies are performed

свадьба--the ceremonies and festivities of the wedding day, especially the wedding feast (reception)

жениться--(of a man) to take a wife; (of a couple) to get married

выйти замуж--(of a woman) to get married; literally, to leave home to join a husband's household

Examples

Я приглашен на свадьбу. I am invited to a wedding.

У нас не было свадьбы. We did not have a wedding reception.

Анна вышла замуж. Anna got married.

Иван женился. Ivan got married.

Иван и Анна женились. Ivan and Anna got married.

Как вы относитесь в сексу до брака/до свадьбы? What do you think about premarital sex?

The Parties in Courtship and Marriage

жених--a suitor, an betrothed man, a bridegroom

невеста--a betrothed woman, a bride

супруг--a spouse (male)

супруга--a spouse (female)

спутник жизни--a spouse of either sex; literally a life companion

More Words about Marriage

брачный союз--the marriage union

гражданский брак--strictly speaking: a marriage entered into in a civil ceremony; informally: living together without marriage

бракосочетание--the marriage ceremony

венчание--a church marriage ceremony

свадебный пир--the marriage feast, the wedding reception

замужество--the state of a woman who is married

женитьба--a man's or a couple's wedding; seems to be used to talk about the change in status rather than the festivities

брачная ночь--the wedding night

Words About Matchmaking and Engagement to Marry

сваха--a matchmaker

сводничество--the act of matchmaking (take care since this can also refer to procuring of prostitutes)

сватать--to recommend a match to someone

свататься--to make an offer of marriage

сватовство--the act of proposing marriage

сделать предложение--to propose something (such as marriage)

предложить руку и сердца--to offer heart and hand (made by a man to a woman)

предложение руки и сердце---the offer of heart and hand

просить руки--to ask for a woman's hand in marriage (request made to parents)

помолвка--an engagement

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    a more adequate in style English equivalent of the term брак is matrimony – Баян Купи-ка Sep 7 '16 at 20:38
  • @БаянКупи-ка I am pretty sure "matrimony" is far higher style than "брак". It is a rarely-used word which I know only from set phrases such as "holy matrimony" and from 19th century novels. The other problem is that "matrimony" refers to the institution, not to an individual union. You can say "our marriage" and "наш брак", but you would not say "our matrimony". That would sound pretentious and almost certainly be incorrect. – David42 Sep 8 '16 at 14:43
  • in certain phrases featuring брак it can be used – Баян Купи-ка Sep 8 '16 at 15:26
  • @DavidC сделать предложение -to propose, сватовство, сватать, просить руки -a man asks the girl 's parents ' permission to marry her, помолвка-engagement – V.V. Sep 8 '16 at 18:38
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    Pimp -pimping (сводничество) – V.V. Sep 10 '16 at 4:12
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Is it seriously necessary to differentiate? More important, do Russians feel the need to differentiate?

It's not quite "the need to differentiate", more like a need to use more correct word. In a casual speech Russians occasionally misplace "женитьба" and "замужество", too.

If I confused one meaning with another, would a Russian speaker pick that up and say 'you should have used this other word, sounds more natural'.

You'd probably be corrected in more or less official environment (if you're preparing a speech or something), of if someone tries to properly teach you the language, or if someone is being a bit pedantic.
Also, though unlikely, mismatched wording could be interpreted as if you mean same-sex marriage.

My final question would be are there any other words like this or does it not really matter and I'm blowing it out of proportion?

I'd say it does not matter too much. Think of it like "its" vs "it's" in English - it is a common and minor mistake, most people just won't bother correcting you.

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Just to add, "женитьба" is a noun formed from the verb "жениться", which comes from the word "жена=wife"and literally translates as something like "to get wifed".

"Замужество" is formed from the phrase "выходить замуж", literally translates as "to go after/behind a husband", "муж" being "husband".

  • Exactly! From point of "mathematical" logic женитьба = "wife-ing", выход замуж = "husband-ing", while in English we only have "husband-ing" (marrying comes from Old French where "mari" means husband). :-) – farfareast Jan 28 '18 at 21:51

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