This post has been a lot of fun, but it also was a considerable amount of word tabulating the references. The bulk of the information came directly from History Of English Podcast and I highly recommend the entire series for not only the wonderful understanding it offers in Linguistics, but in the history of pre-historic Europe and some of South Central Asia and of parts of Anatolia. But perhaps its greatest contribution relates to a possible increase in one’s understaning “cultural diversity” among various peoples. While The History Of English Podcast focuses almost wholly on European cultures, more especially northern (Germanic) cultures and most specifically on the cultures that came to make up the Modern English speaking world, it delves into the Latin, Greek, Celtic/Gaelic and Gaulic cultures as well as touching upon the Phoenician and even some on the Hebrew cultures. Therefore, I hardily recommend these fascinating, entertaining and informative series of podcasts.
Keep in mind that in many older cultures (and some modern cultures) weddings1 were arranged even among commoners. It was in part a financial and economic transaction, so they didn’t always have a romantic elements they have today. We can see that the word “wed2” meant more of a binding covenant in Old English. It was basically a contract. Btw, the word “wed” is a Germanic word which is “wage.” We get the word “wage” from the Franks by way of the French, and in the word “wage” we see another type of contract or promise. In that case a promise to pay someone a specific amount of money in exchange for services.
Wedlock3 comes from an Old English word referring to the process of making an agreement to be married was “wedlac3” (pronounced “wade-lock”) the original version of our word “wedlock3.” A lot of people today think the “lac4” part of that word actually means “lock5” as in to lock someone up, but that’s not actually the case. “Lac4” was an Old English word that meant “activity” and it is completely unrelated to our modern word “lock5.” It was a common suffix but “wedlock3” is the only surviving word in modern English which still has that suffix. So, “wedloc” (pronounced wade-lock) literally meant “pledge-activity,” but it referred to the general state of being married. The Anglo-Saxons loved to combine words together to make new words as their vocabulary was very small compared to today, and “wedlock3” is one of those compounds that have survived into modern English.
The original sense of “wed” as a binding or oath can still be seen in a related word “betroth.6” And betroth6 is another word from this early period. First of all, we have a big clue that this is a very “old” English word thanks to that prefix “be-7.” It was a much more common prefix in Old English and Middle English and we still have it in words like “behold,” “befriend” and “behead.” The “troth8” part of “betroth6” is actually cognate with (has the same linguistic derivation as) the word “truth,” and it reflects the original sense of a marriage9 as a relationship formed by a binding oath and covenant. So, if you were “betroth6” you were being truthful in your promise to be married to someone. The idea of a marriage9 as a type of covenant or contract is also reflected in another Old English word. When a man proposed to a woman and the woman accepted the man’s proposal it was customary for them to shake hands to bind their agreement. In Old English this was called “handfæstung10” or “handfast10”:
“Handfæstung10” literally meant “hand fastening10.” And, again, this was the specific word used to describe an accepted marriage proposal. So, the Anglo-Saxons accepted a marriage proposal in the same way that people today seal a business deal: with a handshake. The analogy of a marriage9 to a business deal is also represented by the way money often changed hands when two people got married. In order to protect the financial interest of the wife11 Anglo-Saxon men would make a payment to their new wife11, but this wasn’t done until the morning after they were married, in other words, after the marriage9 was consummated. This payment was called the “morning-gift12,13” pronounced “morgengifu12,13.” This was akin to the later concept of the dower. A dower was a payment to the brides14 family and the Anglo-Saxons did have a similar concept, but dower and dowery were concepts introduced by the Normans after 1066. A dower was a payment to the bride’s14 family and a dowery was a payment from the bride’s14 family. From this it should be understood that there was a definite financial component to marriages9 early on and that’s probably why a word like “wed2” has an original sense of “promise,” “covenant” or “contract.”
Today we call the actual wedding1 ceremony a “wedding1.” Old English had the word as “weddung1” but it originally referred to the general state of being married. Thus it was basically the equivalent of the modern word “marriage9,” and that is because the Old English did not actually have the word “marriage9.” Words like “marry15,” “marriage9” and “nuptial18” are actually words borrowed from the French after 1066, so they weren’t used in Old English. Instead of French “marriage9” there was Old English “weddung14” or “wedding1” today. But, after the term was borrowed into English “wedding1” became more restricted to the actual wedding1 ceremony itself. Before that happen the Anglo-Saxon word for the marriage ceremony was “bridelope14” literally “bride run.” “Lope17” is cognate with (has the same linguistic derivation as) the word “leap,” and that term “bride run” appears to be a very old term which may have originated in ancient times where the bride14 was basically kidnapped and whisked away. It came to refer to the process of the bride14 leaving her family home to join her husband16’s home. The word “lope17” meaning “run” is also found in another English word related to marriage9: “elope19.”
After the Normans arrived they took that Old English word “lope17” meaning “run” and applied it to refer to a wife11 who left her husband16 for a new lover. In Middle English that process was called “aloper.” Today we have that word in English as “elope19” and the meaning has changed to meaning a man and a woman running away together to get married. But the term still has the sense of running found in the word “lope17” which again is cognate with (has the same linguistic derivation as) the word “leap.” Of course the sense of marriage9 as a big leap is reflected in the phrase “take the plunge” for getting married.
When a man and woman got married it was customary to have a big “wedding1 feast.” In Old English a feast or festival was sometimes called an “ale20.” Of course “ale” also meant “beer” and a lot of “ale” was consumed in those Anglo-Saxon feasts, so the feasts themselves eventually came to be called “ales20.” There were lots of “ales20” at the time. A “cuckoo ale21” which was held in the spring to celebrate when the first song of the cuckoo was heard. A “clerk-ale” and a “give-ale” were sometimes held during the easter season to raise money for the church, and when two people got married they would have a “bride-ale.” So, that was just another one of those Anglo-Saxon compound words which they liked so much. And it is actually the root of the modern word “bridal.” That may seem a little surprising at first. “Bridal” looks like a lot of words we have in Modern English where we convert a noun into an adjective or an adverb by adding an ending to the word. We change the word “man” from a noun to an adjective by adding a suffix “-ly” and we get “manly.” We, also, use the suffix “-al” to convert a word like “fate” into the word fatal, and a word like “mort” from French meaning death to “mortal.” So, “bridal” looks like the word “bride14” with that same “-al” suffix, but that is not actually the case. Bridal is actually a compound word formed by putting two nouns together. It was the “bride ale20” or the “bride’s feast” originally, basically the equivalent of our modern wedding1 reception. Over time the word has become used as an adjective to describe things associated with wedding1 in general.
After the two people were married the following period was called “Flitterwochen22:” basically equivalent to our modern day “honeymoon22.” “Honeymoon22” is a more recent word dating from the Middle or Modern English.
After marriage9 it was customary for spouses to wear rings to commemorate their bond, but you didn’t wear that ring on just any finger. You had to wear it on your third finger. The one the Anglo-Saxons called the “ring finger23” which is another Old English compound words. The term “ring finger23” appears in many Germanic languages so it was an even older term-older than Old English. It was likely borrowed from the early Romans. It appears that the tradition of wearing the wedding1 ring on the third finger started with them and that term passed to the early Germanic tribes. Thus the term “ring finger23” is probably a really old phrase going all the way back to the late Roman Empire. Since the Romans often used gold for those rings that finger was sometimes called the “golden ring finger23” or if your a James Bond fan the “Gold Finger24.” So, if the tradition of putting the wedding1 ring on the third finger came from the Romans why did they pick that finger? That tradition stems from certain ideas that the Romans had picked up from the Greeks. The Greeks and later Romans thought that the third finger had a special nerve which extended from that finger to the heart, and they thought that the third finger had a certain palpatory that allowed doctors to detect and identify diseases. It was a type of sixth sense and in Latin it came to be called the “digitus mediicus25:” literally the “medical finger26.” It was this special aspect of that third finger-its supposed connection to the heart that led to the tradition of wearing the wedding1 ring on that finger. Over time the Anglo-Saxons had borrowed that idea from the Romans since the Romans were considered to be more advanced when it came to medicine. They also borrowed that Latin term which meant “medical finger26” and translated it into Old English as “leech finger27.” “Læce28” was the Old English word for “doctor.” Thus the Anglo-Saxons ended up with two different names for that third finger: “ring finger23” and “leech finger27.” Because of its Latin roots “leech finger27” became more common after 1066 when the Normans arrived.
Wife11 was “wyfe11” in Old English and it was a general word for woman originally, as in the word “midwife.” By the end of the Anglo-Saxon period it was beginning to take on the more specialized sense of a married woman. There is some evidence that the word “wife11” comes from the same ultimate root as “weave,” and if that etymology is correct a “wife11” was originally a word that meant “weaver” someone who weaves and makes clothes and other fabrics. This etymology is supported by archeological evidence. In the graves of many Anglo-Saxon women it is common to find things like “spindles,” “needles” and thread. This is considered to being analogous to burying men with “swords” and other weapons.
That is “wife11” but what about a young wife11 a “bride14?” “Bride14 is another Old Germanic word which has actually changed very little since the time of Old English. Some scholars trace it back to the original Indo-European word “bru-” which meant to cook which gives us words like “brew” and “broth” in Modern English. Thus, those words may be cognate with (has the same linguistic derivation as) “bride14.” Just as “wife11” may have originally meant “a weaver” a “bride14” may have been “a brewer” someone who made “brews” and “broths.”
The word “husband16” was a compound word “husbonda16” which literally meant “house dweller” and “groom29,30” or “bridegroom29,30” comes from the word “brydguma29” literally “bride’s man:” “guma30” being another word for “man” in Old English. As you may be able to see most of our modern words relating to “marriage9” can be traced back to the Anglo-Saxons.
Roger Willis Mills II
Wedding (n.) Old English weddung “state of being wed; pledge, betrothal; action of marrying,” verbal noun from wed (v.). Meaning “nuptials, ceremony of marriage” is recorded from early 13c.; the usual Old English word for the ceremony was bridelope, literally “bridal run,” in reference to conducting the bride to her new home. Wedding ring is from late 14c.; wedding cake is recorded from 1640s, as a style of architecture from 1879. Wedding-dress attested from 1779; wedding-reception from 1856.
Wed (v.) Old English “weddian:” to pledge oneself, covenant to do something, vow-from Proto-Germanic “wadi-” (also of Old Norse veðja, Danish vedde “to bet, wager,” Old Frisian weddia “to promise,” Gothic ga-wadjon “to betroth”), from Proto-Indo-European root *wadh- “to pledge, to redeem a pledge” (Latin [a non-Germanic branches of the Proto-Indo-European language family] vas, genitive vadis “bail, security,” Lithuanian vaduoti “to redeem a pledge”).
The sense has remained closer to “pledge” in other Germanic languages (such as German Wette “a bet, wager”); development to “marry” is unique to English. “Originally ‘make a woman one’s wife by giving a pledge or earnest money’, then used of either party.” Passively, of two people, “to be joined as husband and wife,” from c. 1200.
Wedlock (n.) Old English wedlac “pledge-giving, marriage vow,” from wed + -lac, noun suffix meaning “actions or proceedings, practice,” attested in about a dozen Old English compounds (feohtlac “warfare”), but this is the only surviving example.
-lac (n.) Etymology: from Proto-Germanic *laiką (“jump, spring, sport”). Akin to Old English lāc (“sport, play”).
c) act of hǣmedlāc (“sexual intercourse”)
Lock (v.) c. 1300, “to fasten with a lock, shut or confine with a lock.” The sense is narrowed from that of Old English lucan “to lock, to close” (class II strong verb; past tense leac, past participle locen), from the same verbal root that yielded lock (n.1). The form is from the noun (perhaps reinforced by Old Norse loka); the old original strong verb survived as dialectal louk, and the strong past participle locken lingered a while, as in Middle English loken love “hidden love, clandestine love” (early 14c.).
The Old English verb is cognate with Old Frisian luka “to close,” Old Saxon lukan, Old High German luhhan, Old Norse luka, Gothic galukan. Meaning “to fasten parts together” is from late 14c., originally of armor; of persons, “to embrace closely,” from mid-14c. Related: Locked; locking. Locked “securely established” is from early 15c. To lock (someone) in “shut in a place” is from c. 1400. Slang lock horns “fight” is from 1839.
Betroth (v.) circa. 1300, betrouthen, from bi-, here probably with a sense of “thoroughly,” + Middle English treowðe “truth,” from Old English treowðe “truth, a pledge.”
Be-: word forming element with a wide range of meaning: “thoroughly, completely; to make, cause seem; to provide with; at, on, to, for,” from Old English be- “on all sides” (also used to make transitive verbs and as a privative or intensive prefix), from weak form of Old English bi “by,” probably cognate with second syllable of Greek amphi, Latin ambi and originally meaning “about” (see ambi-).
This sense naturally drifted into intensive (as in bespatter “spatter about,” therefore “spatter very much”). Be- can also be privative (as in behead), causative, or have just about any sense required. The prefix was productive 16c.-17c. in forming useful words, many of which have not survived, such as bethwack “to thrash soundly” (1550s), betongue “to assail in speech, to scold” (1630s).
Troth (n.) “truth, verity,” late 12c., from a phonetic variant of Old English treowð “faithfulness, veracity, truth” (see truth). Restricted to Midlands and Northern England dialect after 16c., and to certain archaic phrases (such as plight one’s troth). Also see betroth.
Marriage (n.) c. 1300, “action of marrying, entry into wedlock;” also “state or condition of being husband and wife, matrimony, wedlock;” from Old French mariage “marriage; dowry” (12c.), from Vulgar Latin *maritaticum (11c.), from Latin maritatus, past participle of maritatre “to wed, marry, give in marriage” (see marry (v.)). The Vulgar Latin word also is the source of Italian maritaggio, Spanish maridaje.
Meaning “a union of a man and woman for life by marriage, a particular matrimonial union” is early 14c. Meanings “the marriage vow, formal declaration or contract by which two join in wedlock;” also “a wedding, celebration of a marriage; the marriage ceremony” are from late 14c. Figurative use (non-theological) “intimate union, a joining as if by marriage” is from early 15c.
Handfast (v.) “betroth (two people), bind in wedlock; pledge oneself to,” early 12c., from Old English handfæsten and cognate Old Norse handfesta “to pledge, betroth; strike a bargain by shaking hands;” for first element see hand (n.); second element is from Proto-Germanic causative verb *fastjan “to make firm,” from PIE *past- “solid, firm” (see fast (adj.). Related: Handfasted; handfasting. The noun in Old English was >handfæstung.
Wife (n.) Middle English wif, wyf, from Old English wif (neuter) “woman, female, lady,” also, but not especially, “wife,” from Proto-Germanic *wiban (source also of Old Saxon, Old Frisian wif, Old Norse vif, Danish and Swedish viv, Middle Dutch, Dutch wijf, Old High German wib, German Weib), of uncertain origin, not found in Gothic.
Apparently felt as inadequate in its basic sense, leading to the more distinctive formation wifman (source of woman). Dutch wijf now means, in slang, “girl, babe,” having softened somewhat from earlier sense of “bitch.” The Modern German cognate (Weib) also tends to be slighting or derogatory; Middle High German wip in early medieval times was “woman, female person,” vrouwe (Frau) being retained for “woman of gentle birth, lady;” but from c. 1200 wip “took on a common, almost vulgar tone that restricted its usage in certain circles” and largely has been displaced by Frau.
The more usual Indo-European word is represented in English by queen/quean. Words for “woman” also double for “wife” in some languages. Some proposed PIE roots for wife include *weip- “to twist, turn, wrap,” perhaps with sense of “veiled person” (see vibrate); and more recently *ghwibh-, a proposed root meaning “shame,” also “pudenda,” but the only examples of it would be the Germanic words and Tocharian (a lost IE language of central Asia) kwipe, kip “female pudenda.”
The modern sense of “female spouse” began as a specialized sense in Old English; the general sense of “woman” is preserved in midwife, old wives’ tale, etc. Middle English sense of “mistress of a household” survives in housewife; and the later restricted sense of “tradeswoman of humble rank” in fishwife. By 1883 as “passive partner in a homosexual couple.” Wife-swapping is attested from 1954.
Morning-gift (n.): (plural morning-gifts) A gift traditionally given in some (especially Germanic) cultures by the husband to his wife on the first morning of their marriage.
Normalisation (after morning and gift) of Middle English morgengive, morhȝive, from Old English morgenġifu, morgenġiefu (“morning gift”), from Proto-Germanic *murgnagebō (“morning gift”), equivalent to morning + gift. Cognate with Dutch morgengave (“morning gift”), German Morgengabe (“morning gift”).
morgengifu: (under “Marriage and Sex” at):
Bride (n.) Old English bryd “bride, betrothed or newly married woman,” from Proto-Germanic *bruthiz “woman being married” (source also of Old Frisian breid, Dutch bruid, Old High German brut, German Braut “bride”). Gothic cognate bruþs, however, meant “daughter-in-law,” and the form of the word borrowed from Old High German into Medieval Latin (bruta) and Old French (bruy) had only this sense. In ancient Indo-European custom, the married woman went to live with her husband’s family, so the only “newly wed female” in such a household would have been the daughter-in-law. On the same notion, some trace the word itself to the PIE verbal root *bru- “to cook, brew, make broth,” as this likely was the daughter-in-law’s job.
Marry (v.) c. 1300, “to give (offspring) in marriage,” from Old French marier “to get married; to marry off, give in marriage; to bring together in marriage,” from Latin maritare “to wed, marry, give in marriage” (source of Italian maritare, Spanish and Portuguese maridar), from maritus (n.) “married man, husband,” of uncertain origin, originally a past participle, perhaps ultimately from “provided with a *mari,” a young woman, from PIE root *mari- “young wife, young woman,” akin to *meryo- “young man” (source of Sanskrit marya- “young man, suitor”).
Meaning “to get married, join (with someone) in matrimony” is early 14c. in English, as is that of “to take in marriage.” Said from 1520s of the priest, etc., who performs the rite. Figurative use from early 15c. Related: Married; marrying. Phrase the marrying kind, describing one inclined toward marriage and almost always used with a negative, is attested by 1824, probably short for marrying kind of men, which is from a popular 1756 essay by Chesterfield.
In some Indo-European languages there were distinct “marry” verbs for men and women, though some of these have become generalized. Compare Latin ducere uxorem (of men), literally “to lead a wife;” nubere (of women), perhaps originally “to veil” [Buck]. Also compare Old Norse kvangask (of men) from kvan “wife” (see quean), so, “take a wife;” giptask (of women), from gipta, a specialized use of “to give” (see gift (n.)), so, “to be given.”
Husband (n.) Old English husbonda “male head of a household, master of a house, householder,” probably from Old Norse husbondi “master of the house,” literally “house-dweller,” from hus “house” (see house (n.)) + bondi “householder, dweller, freeholder, peasant,” from buandi, present participle of bua “to dwell” (see bower). Beginning late 13c. it replaced Old English wer as “married man (in relation to his wife)” and became the companion word of wife, a sad loss for English poetry. Slang shortening hubby first attested 1680s.
Lope (n.) late 14c., “a jump, a leap,” from lope (v.). Sense of “long, bounding stride” is from 1809.
Nuptial (adj.) late 15c., from Middle French nuptial, or directly from Latin nuptialis “pertaining to marriage,” from nuptiae “wedding,” from nupta, fem. past participle of nubere “to marry, wed, take as a husband,” related to Greek nymphe “bride,” from PIE *sneubh- “to marry, wed” (source also of Old Church Slavonic snubiti “to love, woo,” Czech snoubiti “to seek in marriage,” Slovak zasnubit “to betroth”). Related: Nuptially.
Elope (v.) verb (used without object), eloped, eloping.
a. to run off secretly to be married, usually without the consent or knowledge of one’s parents.
b. to run away with a lover.
c. to leave without permission or notification; escape:
At age 21, the apprentice eloped from his master.
d. (of a person with a mental disorder or cognitive impairment) to leave or run away from a safe area or safe premises.
Origin of elope: 1590-1600; Middle English *alopen to run away (whence Anglo-French aloper). See a-3, lope
(intransitive) to run away secretly with a lover, esp in order to marry
Word Origin: C16: from Anglo-French aloper, perhaps from Middle Dutch lōpen to run; see lope
1590s, “to run off,” probably a reborrowing from Middle Dutch (ont)lopen “run away.” Sense of “run from parents to marry secretly” is 19c. Anglo-French aloper “run away from a husband with one’s lover” is attested from mid-14c., but there is a gap of many years.
The Anglo-French word represents Old French es- + Middle English lepen “run, leap” (see leap (v.)).
The oldest Germanic word for “wedding” is represented by Old English brydlop (cf. Old High German bruthlauft, Old Norse bruðhlaup), literally “bride run,” the conducting of the woman to her new home. Related: Eloped ; eloping.
Ale (n.) Meaning “festival or merry-meeting at which much ale was drunk” was in Old English (see bridal).
Cuckoo Ale (n.) A provision of ale or strong beer formerly drunk in the spring of the year. The signal for broaching it seems to have been the first cry of the cuckoo.
Flitterwochen (n.) “indefinite period of tenderness and pleasure experienced by a newly wed couple,” 1540s (hony moone), but probably older, from honey (n.) in reference to the new marriage’s sweetness, and moon (n.) “month” in reference to how long it probably will last, or from the changing aspect of the moon: no sooner full than it begins to wane. French has cognate lune de miel, but German version is flitterwochen (plural), from flitter “tinsel” + wochen “week.” In figurative use from 1570s. Specific sense of “post-wedding holiday” attested from c. 1800.
Ring Finger: The ring finger is the fourth proximal digit of the human hand, and the second most ulnar finger, located between the middle finger and the little finger. It is also called digitus medicinalis, the fourth finger, digitus annularis, digitus quartus, or digitus IV in anatomy. It may also be referred to as the third finger, excluding the thumb.
Gold Finger: back translations: digitus medicus
Declension: gold-finger ( plural gold fingers)
Digitus Medicus: http://www.latin-dictionary.org/medicus_digitus
Medical Finger: https://glosbe.com/la/en/digitus%20medicus
a. back translations: digitus medicus
Declension: leech-finger ( plural leech-fingers)
b. “physician” (obsolete, poetical, or archaic), from Old
English læce “leech,” probably from Old Danish læke, from
Proto-Germanic *lekjaz “enchanter, one who speaks magic
words; healer, physician” (source also of Old Frisian letza,
Old Saxon laki, Old Norse læknir, Old High German lahhi,
Gothic lekeis “physician”), literally “one who counsels,”
perhaps connected with a root found in Celtic (compare
Irish liaig “charmer, exorcist, physician”) and Slavic
(compare Serbo-Croatian lijekar, Polish lekarz), from PIE
*lep-agi “conjurer,” from root *leg- (1) “to collect,” with
derivatives meaning “to speak” (see lecture (n.)).
For sense development, compare Old Church Slavonic
baliji “doctor,” originally “conjurer,” related to Serbo-
Croatian bajati “enchant, conjure;” Old Church Slavonic
vrači, Russian vrač “doctor,” related to Serbo-Croatian vrač
“sorcerer, fortune-teller.” The form merged with leech (n.1)
in Middle English, apparently by folk etymology. In early
Middle English also of God and Christ; by 17c. the sense
had so deteriorated leech typically was applied only to
veterinary practitioners, and soon it was entirely archaic.
The fourth finger of the hand, in Old English, was
læcfinger, translating Latin digitus medicus, Greek daktylus
iatrikos, supposedly because a vein from that finger
stretches straight to the heart.
Læce: doctor; physician
From lǣċe “doctor, physician”
1 of or relating to physicians or the medical field, medical
2 lǣċehūs “hospital, hostelry”
3 lǣċefeoh “doctor’s fee”
4 lǣċebōc “prescription book”
5 lǣċeīren “surgeon’s knife, scalpel”
6 of or relating to medicine, medicinal
7 lǣċedōm “field of medicine”
8 lǣċecyst “medicine chest”
9 lǣċewyrt “medicinal herb, drug, treatment”
Bridegroom: Old English brydguma “suitor,” from bryd “bride” (see bride) + guma “man” (source also of Old Norse gumi, Old High German gomo, cognate with Latin homo “man;” see homunculus). Ending altered 16c. by folk etymology after groom (n.) “groom, boy, lad” (q.v.).
Common Germanic compound (compare Old Saxon brudigumo, Old Norse bruðgumi, Old High German brutigomo, German Bräutigam), except in Gothic, which used bruþsfaþs, literally “bride’s lord.”
Guma: “a human being,” 1530s, from human (adj.). Its Old English equivalent, guma, survives only in disguise in bridegroom.
Additional information from:
History of English Podcast
Episode 38: Nobles, Nuptials and a Cowherd Poet