In a Word: Consanguinity

May 16, 2011|By John McIntyre, The Baltimore Sun

Each week, The Sun's John McIntyre presents a moderately obscure but evocative word with which you may not be familiar — another brick to add to the wall of your working vocabulary. This week's word:


If you were mildly alarmed to learn that Baron and Baroness Carrickfergus — all right, all right, William and Kate — are 12th cousins, the issue you had in mind would have been consanguinity.

Consanguinity (pronounced kahn-san-GWIN-uh-tee) is descent from the same ancestor. Latin con, "together," and sanguis, "blood" conbine in consanguineus, "of the same blood." The degree of blood relationship is an issue in marriage, descent and inheritance.

If people in lineal consanguinity, such as father and daughter, attempt to marry, it is considered incest and prohibited. If people in collateral consanguinity, having a common ancestor but not in direct descent, want to marry, legal and religious codes determine whether or not the union would be incestuous.

You can relax, the Earl and Countess of Strathearn — all right, all right, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge — all right, all right, William and Kate — are well outside the prohibited degrees of consanguinity.

Example: "Am not I consanguineous? Am I not of her blood?" asks Sir Toby Belch in Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night."

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.