Sunday, April 29, 2012

Origin of the words 'daughter' and 'wife'


The word 'wife' in Anglo-Saxon was originally wif-man, which meant the weaver.  The husband was known as weapon-man, the protector of the family.  Since the wife's job of weaving and making clothes was probably limited to working exclusively for her own family and not making clothes for others, the meaning of the term 'wife' became restricted over time to that which was truly exclusive to the family - the conjugal relationship of husband and wife; and other terms came into use to define the work of weaving and garment-making.  In other words, when an Anglo-Saxon man spoke of 'my weaver', he was understood to refer to his lover, his companion, the mother of his children, as well as his clothes maker; but certainly not to a weaver by trade.


The Anglo-Saxon term 'dohter' signified milkmaid - the name being derived, as with wifman, from the duty assigned to female offspring within the primitive household; and since she was unlikely to have been employed in milking the cows of other households, the term 'dohter' likewise gained with time the exclusive filial meaning of daughter as in 'father and daughter'.

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