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Q From Anita Finley: Can you tell me the origin of honeymoon?

A Those of you with romantic constitutions had better look away now. There are many invented stories about the origin of this word, mostly so sickly that I cringe at repeating them. There is, for example, the suggestion that at some time in some place there was a custom for newlyweds to drink a potion containing honey every day for the first month after the nuptials. But the word only turns up in English in the middle of the sixteenth century. Let me quote you a passage from Richard Huloet’s Abecedarium Anglico Latinum of 1552 (in modernised spelling): “Honeymoon, a term proverbially applied to such as be new married, which will not fall out at the first, but the one loveth the other at the beginning exceedingly, the likelihood of their exceeding love appearing to assuage, the which time the vulgar people call the honey moon”. Putting it simply, it was that charmed period when married love was at first as sweet as honey, but which waned like the moon and in roughly the same period of time. Cynical, I know, but that’s etymology!

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Copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
Page created 1 May 1999

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The English language is forever changing. New words appear; old ones fall out of use or alter their meanings. World Wide Words tries to record at least a part of this shifting wordscape by featuring new words, word histories, words in the news, and the curiosities of native English speech.

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This page URL: http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-hon1.htm
Last modified: 1 May 1999.