1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Husband

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HUSBAND, properly the “head of a household,” but now chiefly, used in the sense of a man legally joined by marriage to a woman, his “wife”; the legal relations between them are treated below under Husband and Wife. The word appears in O. Eng. as húsbonda, answering to the Old Norwegian húsbóndi, and means the owner or freeholder of a has, or house. The last part of the word still survives in “bondage” and “bondman,” and is derived from bua, to dwell, which, like Lat. colere, means also to till or cultivate, and to have a household. “Wife,” in O. Eng. wif, appears in all Teutonic languages except Gothic; cf. Ger. Weib, Dutch wijf, &c., and meant originally simply a female, “woman” itself being derived from wifman, the pronunciation of the plural wimmen still preserving the original i. Many derivations of “wife” have been given; thus it has been connected with the root of “weave,” with the Gothic waibjan, to fold or wrap up, referring to the entangling clothes worn by a woman, and also with the root of vibrare, to tremble. These are all merely guesses, and the ultimate history of the word is lost. It does not appear outside Teutonic languages. Parallel to “husband” is “housewife,” the woman managing a household. The earlier húswif was pronounced hussif, and this pronunciation survives in the application of the word to a small case containing scissors, needles and pins, cottons, &c. From this form also derives “hussy,” now only used in a deprecatory sense of a light, impertinent girl. Beyond the meaning of a husband as a married man, the word appears in connexion with agriculture, in “husbandry” and “husbandman.” According to some authorities “husbandman” meant originally in the north of England a holder of a “husband land,” a manorial tenant who held two ox-gangs or virgates, and ranked next below the yeoman (see J. C. Atkinson in Notes and Queries, 6th series, vol. xii., and E. Bateson, History of Northumberland, ii., 1893). From the idea of the manager of a household, “husband” was in use transferred to the manager of an estate, and the title was held by certain officials, especially in the great trading companies. Thus the “husband” of the East India Company looked after the interests of the company at the custom-house. The word in this sense is practically obsolete, but it still appears in “ship's husband,” an agent of the owners of a ship who looks to the proper equipping of the vessel, and her repairs, procures and adjusts freights, keeps the accounts, makes chapter-parties and acts generally as manager of the ship's employment. Where such an agent is himself one of the owners of the vessel, the name of “managing owner” is used. The “ship's husband” or “managing owner” must register his name and address at the port of registry (Merchant Shipping Act 1894, § 59). From the use of “husband” for a good and thrifty manager of a household, the verb “to husband” means to economize, to lay up a store, to save.