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A modern dictionary of Catholic terms, both common and obscure. Find accurate definitions of words and phrases.

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ONAN

Son of Judah and Shua. When Onan's brother, Er, died, Judah ordered Onan to marry the widow, Tamar, and produce a son who would be Er's child, according to the levirate law (Deuteronomy 25:5-6). Onan married her but frustrated the law by withdrawal during intercourse. In punishment, Yahweh caused Onan's death (Genesis 38:8-10). In modern usage, onanism is variously used to mean contraception or masturbation. (Etym. Hebrew Onan.)

All items in this dictionary are from Fr. John Hardon's Modern Catholic Dictionary, © Eternal Life. Used with permission.

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