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Catholic Dictionary




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.)