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A male spouse, one half of a pair. Looking at the word, I expect it to be derived thus: hus=house and band=bind, bound. The OED definition, not too surprisingly, is all about this:

Late OE; húsbonda, -bunda, f. hús house + late OE. ? bónda, bonda, bunda, a. ONor. bóndi, peasant owning his own house and land, freeholder, franklin, yeoman; earlier búandi, bóandi, orig. pres. pple. of búa, bóa to dwell, have a household; but the OE. use answered immediately to ONor. húsbóndi, a man of this rank in his capacity as head or master of the household. In ME. often with connective e, as in husewif, housewife.

House-bound, bound to the house. This seems to me to refer to the medieval concepts of the hold, the copyhold, held land and the household Very Strongly Indeed. The husband is bound to the house as well as to the wife (i.e. housewife, huswife--the word "housewife" is very different in derivation from the 1950s ideal, thank god). They are bound to the land; they husband it as well as the house. The house or "hus" in itself stands for every part of the hold--the householding does not only include the people sustained by the land, but the land itself, the house, everything. Everything is held under the husband, the householder, he who is bound to the house and thus to the household.

The verb "to husband" as well is interesting with this land business. A husbandman keeps the land, or husbands it. He takes physical care of it, and thus takes physical care of the household as a whole: he grows crops or breeds animals. These then sustain the household. Nowadays a husband would take more than physical care of everything, and I would think that he would have as well in the Middle Ages: one cannot really be filled with well-being if one is starving, for instance. The husband provides. What he specifically provides is different in each individual case. However, by definition, he does provide.

Addendum, 11 Dec.: Gritchka tells me that "-band" is a German participle, with root "to be" such that it equals "be-ing". This is also pretty interesting. Is the husband then a being of the house? One who lives or is of the house? This seems to match with my idea of binding pretty well; if one is a being of x, then one is part of x. The husband is bound to the house even if the derivation might not state this explicitly. So I think that the idea of binding is still relevant here.

Husband as a noun denoting the male partner in a marriage or a married man at first had nothing to do with marital status, except for the fact that home ownership made husbands enormously attractive marriage partners.

To husband in the verb form means use sparingly or to economize. Husbandry would be the noun for this word is husbandry "sparing use, economization." As mentioned in the other write-ups ‘to husband’ at first indicated a farmer who owned his own farm and home. In this manner the best husband was one who administrated his land with thrift and frugality leading to the verbal sense of the word, manage or steward, make do, budget, live on a budget, live (or keep) within one's means, make both ends meet, conserve, or husband one's resources. It was also frequently used to mean manager, as of a wine cellar or tavern.

Conserve is another synonymous word that conveys its transitive verb meaning. Shakespeare used it in this manner when Banquo, in Macbeth, sees that it is a dark and starless night says,

    "There's husbandry in heaven; their candles are all out."

Then as now, it was the father in the household who went around putting out unneeded lights to save costs. In the modern world one might use this word as ” We must also husband our natural resources, be thrifty with them, making provisions for their replenishment, as the head of a family might manage his estate so that his children and grandchildren may benefit from it.”

Today we have the a few related phrases: common law husband as a partner recognized by common law without formal marriage and house –husband designating a man who does a wife's traditional household duties. Other derivatives of husband are: husbander, husbandhood, husbandless, and husbandly as well as some colloquialisms of the word such as hubby and of course ‘the other half’.

One dictionary tells that, “the English word husband comes from Old Norse husbondi "master of a house" based on hus "house" + bondi "estate owner" from bua "to dwell, own an estate." Women marrying Norsemen who arrived in England shortly before 800 AD called their spouses ‘husbondi’, the Norse word for what was then their masters. Not to mention one unusual incident, if the word for woman wif had not taken on its meaning it has today, the feminine form of the word was husbonde signifying "wife, mistress of the house" which would also be "husband."

It might interest some reader to know that toalight says this about the use of the word husband in a European country: We still call it "husbond" over here in Norway. It's mostly used as a sort of slang. :-)




Hus"band (?), n. [OE. hosebonde, husbonde, a husband, the master of the house or family, AS. hsbonda master of the house; hs house + bunda, bonda, householder, husband; prob. fr. Icel. hsbondi house master, husband; hs house + bandi dwelling, inhabiting, p.pr. of ba to dwell; akin to AS. ban, Goth. bauan. See House Be, and cf. Bond a slave, Boor.]


The male head of a household; one who orders the economy of a family.



A cultivator; a tiller; a husbandman.



The painful husband, plowing up his ground. Hakewill.

He is the neatest husband for curious ordering his domestic and field accommodations. Evelyn.


One who manages or directs with prudence and economy; a frugal person; an economist.


God knows how little time is left me, and may I be a good husband, to improve the short remnant left me. Fuller.


A married man; a man who has a wife; -- the correlative to wife.

The husband and wife are one person in law. Blackstone.


The male of a pair of animals.



A ship's husband Naut., an agent representing the owners of a ship, who manages its expenses and receipts.


© Webster 1913.

Hus"band, v. t. [imp. & p. p. Husbanded; p. pr. & vb. n. Husbanding.]


To direct and manage with frugality; to use or employ to good purpose and the best advantage; to spend, apply, or use, with economy.

For my means, I'll husband them so well, They shall go far. Shak.


To cultivate, as land; to till.


Land so trim and rarely husbanded. Evelyn.


To furnish with a husband.




© Webster 1913.

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