Exogamy – The Practice of Marrying Outside of One’s Social Group

You might be thinking, “Exo-what now?” Don’t worry, you’re not alone. The term “exogamy” isn’t one that’s thrown around in everyday conversation. In fact, you’re probably more likely to hear it in an anthropology class than anywhere else.

So, what is exogamy? Put simply, it’s the practice of marrying outside of one’s social group.

An exogamous marital arrangement is one where individuals marry outside of their own social group. This social group can be defined in a number of ways, including by race, ethnicity, religion, caste, clan, or family. It is one of the most common marriage practices in the world, and it has been observed in societies all over the globe

The Origins of Exogamy

The word “exogamy” comes from the Greek words exo-, meaning “outside,” and -gamy, meaning “marriage.”

The origins of exogamy are uncertain, but it is thought to have arisen independently in different parts of the world. It is likely that originally exogamy evolved as a way to reduce competition among members of the same social group for mates and ensured that individuals had a larger pool of potential mates to choose from.

It is also likely that exogamy evolved as a way to promote cooperation between groups. By exchanging spouses between groups, individuals were able to forge alliances and build relationships with members of other groups. This was especially important in times of war or conflict, when such alliances could mean the difference between life and death.

Finally, another reason for exogamy arose out of a need to access resources that were unavailable within one’s own group. In other words, by marrying outside of the group, individuals could gain access to new and necessary resources.

Why Exogamy is Practiced Today

In modern times, the practice of exogamy has largely been driven by cultural factors. Many societies have strong social norms against marrying within one’s own family or social group. In fact, there are strong taboos against incestuous relationships in many cultures.

Exogamy is also practiced for practical reasons. In some parts of the world, arranged marriages are still common, and exogamy is often seen as a way to prevent families from being too closely related to each other. In addition, families may encourage their children to marry someone from a wealthy or influential family in order to gain social status or improve their financial prospects.

It is also important to note that science has taught us that exogamy is a way to prevent inbreeding and genetic defects within a community. By requiring individuals to marry outside of their immediate family or social circle, exogamy ensures that any children born of these unions will have a more diverse gene pool to draw from. In other words, exogamy helps to keep the gene pool fresh.

Different types of exogamy

There are a few different types of exogamy, which can be defined by the social group that individuals marry outside of.

Racial exogamy is when individuals marry outside of their own race. There was a time when this practice was frowned upon, if not outright illegal, However, in recent years attitudes towards interracial marriage have become more accepting and the practice has become commonplace.

Ethnic exogamy is when individuals marry outside of their own ethnic group. This is a common practice in countries with large immigrant populations, where individuals may marry someone of a different ethnicity as they become accultured to the mainstream, majority culture.

Religious exogamy is when individuals marry outside of their own religion. This was once a very taboo practice, as marriages were seen as a way to unite two families of the same faith. However, in modern times it has become more common for people of different religions to marry one another.

Caste exogamy is when individuals marry outside of their own caste. This is still frowned upon in societies that are highly stratified, such as those with rigid caste systems. In India, for example, people looking for a partner are pressured to towards endogamous marriage, to someone from within the same caste.

How has globalization affected exogamy

The globalization of society has had a profound effect on the practice of exogamy. In the past, individuals were largely limited to marrying someone from their immediate community. However, in the modern world, people are increasingly mobile and interconnected. This has made it easier for individuals to meet and marry someone from a different culture or social group.

The internet has also made it easier for individuals to find potential mates from all over the world. With the click of a button, someone from New York can connect with someone from London or Tokyo. This has made exogamy more common than ever before.

Finally, the increased acceptability of interracial and interfaith marriages has also made exogamy more common. In the past, these types of marriages were considered taboo. However, in the modern world, they are becoming more and more accepted.


Exogamy is a widely practiced marriage custom whereby individuals marry outside of their social group. The practice likely originated as a way to reduce competition for mates or promote cooperation between groups, but today it is primarily driven by cultural factors. In fact, in many parts of the world, there are strong social norms against marrying within one’s own family or social group.

Related Terminology:

Endogamy: the practice of marrying within one’s own social group.

Inbreeding: the practice of breeding between individuals who are closely related.

Outbreeding: the practice of breeding between individuals who are not closely related.

Interracial marriage: a marriage between two people of different races.

Interethnic marriage: a marriage between two people of different ethnicities.

Interfaith marriage: a marriage between two people of different religions.

Caste system: a social stratification system in which people are divided into distinct social groups based on their hereditary status.

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