The custom of a widow marrying her deceased husband’s brother or sometimes a near heir. The word has nothing to do with the name Levi or the biblical Levites but is so called because of the Latin levir, meaning “husband’s brother,” connected with the English suffix -ate, thus constituting levirate. This system of marriage is designated in Deut. 25:5–10 (see also Gen. 38:8), is spoken of in Matt. 22:23–33; it also forms a major aspect of the story of Ruth (Ruth 4:1–12).