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View Full Version : What, exactly, does the phrase "to have and to hold" in traditional wedding vows mean?


Revtim
02-04-2011, 12:41 PM
For some reason it occurred to me today that I don't really know what that phrase means.

I presume it isn't using "have" in the sexual sense. Or is it? That seems kind of crude for a wedding ceremony, IMHO.

The Devil's Grandmother
02-04-2011, 02:23 PM
I looked at the 1559 Book of Common Prayer to see if it used that phrase, and it does.

I {name} take thee, {name} to my wedded wyfe, to have and to hold from thys day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for porer, in sickenes, and in healthe, to love and to cheryshe, tyll death us departe; according to Gods holy ordinaunce, and therto I plight the my trouth.

Trying to find common little words like "have" and "hold" in dictonaries of the period wasn't very succesful, but A General Glossary to Shakespeare's Works. Alexander Dyce. Boston. Dana Estes and Company. 1904. says:

have to conceive, to understand: “You have me, have you not?” HAMLET, ii. 1. 68. .

hold “in—Such as can,” 1 HENRY IV., ii. 1. 74. “May mean such as can curb old father antick the law, or such as will not blab” (STEEVENS) . “May mean, such companions as will hold in, or keep and stick close to one another, and such as are men of deeds, and not of words” (TOLLET) . “To hold in, I believe, meant to ‘keep their fellows' counsel and their own;’ not to discover their rogueries by talking about them” (MALONE) .

Another shakespearian commentator says:
have with thee or with you == take me with you, I'll go with you: Wiv. II, 1, 161. Wiv. II, 1, 161 Wiv. II, 1, 161 III, 2, 93. LLL IV, 2, 151. As I, 2, 268. H6A II, 4, 114. R3 III, 2, 92. Troil. V, 2, 185. Cor. II, 1, 286. Oth. I, 2, 53. Cymb. IV, 4, 50.

I think to have and to hold still means to be mine and stay with me.

Edited to add: I don't think the phrase really means anything anymore. It's just there because it's always been there.

Al Bundy
02-04-2011, 03:38 PM
I think it means the wife gets to have whatever the groom is holding for all time.

Omar Little
02-04-2011, 03:39 PM
I agree with Satan's grandma. To paraphrase for modern vernacular...that you won't divorce. The "till death do us part" puts the timing on the aforementioned condition. Unfortunately, statistically, a lot of folks don't hold up to this vow, but it may be because, one party broke one of the other vows.

jayjay
02-04-2011, 03:49 PM
Are "have" and "hold" perhaps the Norman and Saxon words for the same thing? There seems to be a lot of that in CofE ritual.

Markxxx
02-04-2011, 03:50 PM
To have and to hold, would mean to not only HAVE something but to keep it close to you.

How many "things" do you have but haven't held in years. I have boxes of junk.

But if you were holding it, it means you would have it close to you and you'd be "using" it, not merely treating it as a possession to be filed away

Giles
02-04-2011, 03:52 PM
Trying to find common little words like "have" and "hold" in dictonaries of the period wasn't very succesful, ...
The most useful dictionary for what words meant in the 15th and 16th centuries is the Oxford English Dictionary. I'll check in my copy when I get home, but I suspect that the general meaning is something like "own and possess".

Shmendrik
02-04-2011, 03:58 PM
Are "have" and "hold" perhaps the Norman and Saxon words for the same thing? There seems to be a lot of that in CofE ritual.

Nope, they're both from Old English.

The Devil's Grandmother
02-04-2011, 04:06 PM
Thanks Giles! I don't have access to an OED here at work, so I was just digging through internet sources.

Exapno Mapcase
02-04-2011, 04:07 PM
Hold as in behold. From etymonline.com:
hold (v.)
O.E. haldan (Anglian), healdan (W.Saxon), class VII strong verb (past tense heold, pp. healden), from P.Gmc. *khaldanan (cf. O.N. halda, Du. houden, Ger. halten "to hold," Goth. haldan "to tend"), originally "to keep, tend, watch over" (as cattle), later "to have." Ancestral sense is preserved in behold. The original pp. holden was replaced by held beginning 16c., but survives in some legal jargon and in beholden.

behold
O.E. bihaldan (W.Saxon behealdan) "give regard to, hold in view," also "to keep hold of, to belong to," from bi- "by" + haldan, healdan (see hold).

Long Time Lurker
02-04-2011, 04:20 PM
Without any cite to back it up, I'd guess that it comes out of real property law. There's something called a habendum clause (otherwise known as the "to-have-and-to-hold clause") which, according to Black's Law dictionary is "the part of the deed that defines the extent of the interest being granted and any conditions affecting the grant".

Originates from the latin "habendum et tenendum".

Giles
02-05-2011, 09:07 AM
Without any cite to back it up, I'd guess that it comes out of real property law. There's something called a habendum clause (otherwise known as the "to-have-and-to-hold clause") which, according to Black's Law dictionary is "the part of the deed that defines the extent of the interest being granted and any conditions affecting the grant".

Originates from the latin "habendum et tenendum".
As promised, I've checked in the OED, and it confirms this:
To have and to hold, a phrase app[arently] of legal origin ...: To have (or receive) and keep or retain, indicating continuance of possession
The 1549 Book of Common Prayer is given as an example.

matt_mcl
02-05-2011, 01:14 PM
There are many cases of legal phrases involving two or more words with similar meanings joined with "and," for example "aid and abet," "give, devise, and bequeath," and so forth.

I believe it comes from a similar practice in French, from which legal English got a lot of linguistic traits. There are still a number of such phrases in French (not necessarily legal French), such as d'ores et déjà, au fur et à mesure, à tort et à travers, à ses risques et périls, bel et bien, clair, net et précis, d'abord et avant tout, and such.

david1959
08-16-2016, 06:06 AM
You mean you lot seriously don't know???

OK. The first part of your wedding vows contains six components in two groups; first, to take, to have and to hold, then, to love, honour and cherish (or obey).

The first three components are all physical in nature, they relate to the physical aspects of your future married life and caring for your spouse. The second three are all emotional, and relate to the emotional aspects of your future marriage.

The first is to take. By this you indicate that you have selected one person, and one person only to whom you will devote your remaining life. It is to that person that the next two aspects are relevant and extremely important.

The second is to have. The best way to explain this is with a hypothetical example. Ask yourself this: if someone of the opposite sex was to come up to you in the street and say to you "I want to have you", How would you most likely interpret that? Pretty obvious really. To 'have' implies possession but in the context of a marriage the implication is sexual. You are declaring that your future spouse is going to be the one person with whom you will enjoy a sexual relationship. It is your indication of your desire to physically enjoy that person and that person only, and since the vows and intentions are reciprocated, you are also declaring your intent to give your own body to that person for their enjoyment.

The third phrase is to hold. To hold another person implies care. In other words you are declaring your intent to provide for that person's physical care for the rest of their life.

So in effect, you are declaring a two-way physical association between yourself and your future spouse, one in which you intend to both give your own body for that person's intimate enjoyment and to accept only their body for your intimate enjoyment, and also the other aspect of the physical relationship, to care for them physically when they need you.

If you were to translate the phrase "to take ........, to have and to hold" into a more modern, and somewhat wordy English version, it would go something like this;
"I choose and accept you (chosen future spouse) and offer my body to you as your faithful sexual partner, declaring my intent to go only to you for my own sexual needs, and I also pledge to care for your physical needs for the rest of our lives".

Really, given the close and intimate nature between two people who are married and that the institution of marriage is meant to provide for, it should come as no great surprise to discover that such a reference to the physical and intimate nature of the marriage relationship is actually included in the vows that are made. True, the reference is certainly veiled in nature, hence why many people do not understand it, however given the very public nature of the marriage ceremony, it is understandable why this needs to be so. Perhaps it is something that should be emphasised more in pre-marriage education, as the physical side of a marriage really is one of the most significant factors that distinguishes the marriage relationship from every other form of relationship.

I hope this clears up the question that has been asked.

ThD :)

Chronos
08-16-2016, 11:50 AM
Actually, this lot seriously does know, and has for five years.

PatrickLondon
08-16-2016, 12:09 PM
That seems kind of crude for a wedding ceremony, IMHO.

Weelll.... The standard CofE form of wedding service is pretty direct about sex, in the preamble (emboldening mine):

DEARLY beloved, we are gathered together here in the sight of God, and in the face of this Congregation, to join together this man and this woman in holy Matrimony; which is an honourable estate, instituted of God in the time of man's innocency, signifying unto us the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and his Church; which holy estate Christ adorned and beautified with his presence, and first miracle that he wrought, in Cana of Galilee; and is commended of Saint Paul to be honourable among all men: and therefore is not by any to be enterprised, nor taken in hand, unadvisedly, lightly, or wantonly, to satisfy men's carnal lusts and appetites, like brute beasts that have no understanding; but reverently, discreetly, advisedly, soberly, and in the fear of God; duly considering the causes for which Matrimony was ordained.
First, It was ordained for the procreation of children, to be brought up in the fear and nurture of the Lord, and to the praise of his holy Name.
Secondly, It was ordained for a remedy against sin, and to avoid fornication; that such persons as have not the gift of continency might marry, and keep themselves undefiled members of Christ's body.
Thirdly, It was ordained for the mutual society, help, and comfort, that the one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and adversity. Into which holy estate these two persons present come now to be joined. Therefore if any man can shew any just cause, why they may not lawfully be joined together, let him now speak, or else hereafter for ever hold his peace.

Exapno Mapcase
08-16-2016, 01:06 PM
You mean you lot seriously don't know???
We do know, because we provided actual etymological citations.

You are pulling things out of your ass. You'll find that people here will reject being handed those as much as they would their real-world counterparts.

david1959
08-17-2016, 04:35 AM
The question was asked and the answer was given.
Strange how there will always be one person who will resort to insults - usually it means that they have no reasonable reply, so they resort to personal attacks instead.
Incidentally, an ass is a type of donkey.

GreenWyvern
08-17-2016, 07:12 AM
Are "have" and "hold" perhaps the Norman and Saxon words for the same thing? There seems to be a lot of that in CofE ritual.

Yes, I believe this is correct.

In early English legal formulas, very often two words of very similar or identical meaning were used, one of Norman origin and one of Saxon origin.

The purpose was to avoid any misunderstanding, since both languages were spoken in England.

Other examples are:

last will and testament
aid and abet
acknowledge and confess
fit and proper
reside and dwell
get and receive

There are many examples of fomulaic usages like this in old English legal documents. Sometimes the meanings have changed since then, so that they are no longer identical.

To have and to hold is the same kind of construction from the same time period, however else people may try to rationalize it today.

bienville
08-17-2016, 07:45 AM
Incidentally, an ass is a type of donkey.

Specifically, an unmarried donkey.

Cite:
"the law is a ass—a idiot. If that’s the eye of the law, the law is a bachelor."
Charles Dickens 1838

BubbaDog
08-17-2016, 09:13 AM
The question was asked and the answer was given.
That was his point. He thought your answer was invalid.

Strange how there will always be one person who will resort to insults - usually it means that they have no reasonable reply, so they resort to personal attacks instead.
It may have been rudely stated but it does point to your explanation as having no evidence cited to support it.
We have an opinion section on this board which you can use or you can pose your response as a suggestion but without any cites you appear to be expressing an opinion instead of providing a factual answer.

Incidentally, an ass is a type of donkey. helpful information for you.

Ass (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ass) has multiple definitions including vulgar ones such as buttocks or rectum.

Hey, but besides all of the verbal sparring - Welcome to the Dope.

Nava
08-17-2016, 10:46 AM
The purpose was to avoid any misunderstanding, since both languages were spoken in England.

Other examples are:

last will and testament

Originally, testament means testimony, not last will. The person giving the document is attesting that the decisions listed are, indeed, what he wants as his last will.

Exapno Mapcase
08-17-2016, 10:59 AM
Yes, I believe this is correct.

In early English legal formulas, very often two words of very similar or identical meaning were used, one of Norman origin and one of Saxon origin.

...

To have and to hold is the same kind of construction from the same time period, however else people may try to rationalize it today.

From etymonline (http://etymonline.com/index.php?allowed_in_frame=0&search=have)

have (v.)
Old English habban "to own, possess; be subject to, experience," from Proto-Germanic *haben- (source also of Old Norse hafa, Old Saxon hebbjan, Old Frisian habba, German haben, Gothic haban "to have"), from PIE *kap- "to grasp" (see capable). Not related to Latin habere, despite similarity in form and sense; the Latin cognate is capere "seize.

Sense of "possess, have at one's disposal" (I have a book) is a shift from older languages, where the thing possessed was made the subject and the possessor took the dative case (as in Latin est mihi liber "I have a book," literally "there is to me a book"). Used as an auxiliary in Old English, too (especially to form present perfect tense); the word has taken on more functions over time; Modern English he had better would have been Old English him (dative) wære betere.

hold (v.)
O.E. haldan (Anglian), healdan (W.Saxon), class VII strong verb (past tense heold, pp. healden), from P.Gmc. *khaldanan (cf. O.N. halda, Du. houden, Ger. halten "to hold," Goth. haldan "to tend"), originally "to keep, tend, watch over" (as cattle), later "to have." Ancestral sense is preserved in behold. The original pp. holden was replaced by held beginning 16c., but survives in some legal jargon and in beholden.

behold
O.E. bihaldan (W.Saxon behealdan) "give regard to, hold in view," also "to keep hold of, to belong to," from bi- "by" + haldan, healdan (see hold).

There is no indication of a Norman/Latin ancestor for either. There may be an implication of redundancy in that both say that ownership or possession is involved, and the redundant pairings common in law (given earlier by matt_mcl) may have influenced the wording. The CoE vows also has the line to love and to cherish, which do converge from Latin and German ancestries.

Remember that the lines come from the Book of Common Prayers, which was written in 1549 (not 1559). Modern people can interpret them in whatever way they want, obviously, but if you're asking what the words meant when they were inserted into the vows you have to look at 16th century usage.

Drunky Smurf
08-17-2016, 11:25 AM
The question was asked and the answer was given.

Yes it was. 5 years before you showed up.

APB
08-17-2016, 12:33 PM
Remember that the lines come from the Book of Common Prayers, which was written in 1549 (not 1559).



They're actually much older than that, as Cranmer was merely adapting the familiar vows from the various liturgies used in England before the Reformation. See, for example, the version of the vows in the Use of York (https://archive.org/details/manualeetp00cath) (p. 27).



And, yes, Long Time Lurker and Giles had this one nailed five years ago. The phrase is an instantly familiar one to anyone who has had cause to read older English legal deeds. Even illiterate brides and grooms would probably have recognised and understood it as a suitably solemn piece of legalese.

md2000
08-17-2016, 01:06 PM
...
There is no indication of a Norman/Latin ancestor for either. There may be an implication of redundancy in that both say that ownership or possession is involved, and the redundant pairings common in law (given earlier by matt_mcl) may have influenced the wording. The CoE vows also has the line to love and to cherish, which do converge from Latin and German ancestries.

Remember that the lines come from the Book of Common Prayers, which was written in 1549 (not 1559). Modern people can interpret them in whatever way they want, obviously, but if you're asking what the words meant when they were inserted into the vows you have to look at 16th century usage.


But... Latin habeo
From Proto-Italic *habēō or *haβēō, the latter possibly from Proto-Indo-European *gʰh₁bʰ- ‎(“to grab, to take”). Compare Old Irish gaibim ‎(“I hold”), Polish gabać ‎(“to grab, snatch”).

Oscan and Umbrian have cognate forms with -b-[1], which must reflect an original -b- as Proto-Italic -β- (and therefore PIE -bʰ-) becomes -f- in those languages. On the other hand, b is a rare phoneme in PIE, whose status is still disputed. Thus, the exact origin of this word is not clear.

Among the oldest attestations are the works of Plautus (circa 254 to 184 BC) and the Senatus consultum de Bacchanalibus (186 BC). Umbrian cognate hab- attested in the Iguvine Tablets (oldest tablets 3rd century BC). Oscan cognate haf-[2] attested in the Tabula Bantina (89 BC).


When the election is done, the guy running the show comes out the Sistine chapel and announces "habemus papam..."

As is commonly found in European languages, the switch between "B" an "V" is not that distant.

Exapno Mapcase
08-17-2016, 02:29 PM
But... Latin habeo
But... You could have read my cite:
Not related to Latin habere, despite similarity in form and sense; the Latin cognate is capere "seize.

Leo Bloom
08-17-2016, 02:53 PM
...From etymonline (http://etymonline.com/index.php?allowed_in_frame=0&search=have)

Quote:
have (v.)
Old English habban "to own, possess; be subject to, experience," from Proto-Germanic *haben- (source also of Old Norse hafa, Old Saxon hebbjan, Old Frisian habba, German haben, Gothic haban "to have"), from PIE *kap- "to grasp" (see capable). Not related to Latin habere, despite similarity in form and sense; the Latin cognate is capere "seize.

Sense of "possess, have at one's disposal" (I have a book) is a shift from older languages, where the thing possessed was made the subject and the possessor took the dative case (as in Latin est mihi liber "I have a book," literally "there is to me a book"). Used as an auxiliary in Old English, too (especially to form present perfect tense); the word has taken on more functions over time; Modern English he had better would have been Old English him (dative) wære betere....

To follow this up, is the the consequent clause here "modern English" or what? I always thought it was subjunctive and that was that.

"If it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well/It were done quickly:"

[I]Macbeth I:7.1-2

Note: yes this is a drift leading to hijack, but it's language and it's Shakespeare, who always gets a pass.