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Old 02-04-2011, 12:41 PM
Revtim Revtim is offline
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What, exactly, does the phrase "to have and to hold" in traditional wedding vows mean?

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.
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  #2  
Old 02-04-2011, 02:23 PM
The Devil's Grandmother The Devil's Grandmother is offline
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I looked at the 1559 Book of Common Prayer to see if it used that phrase, and it does.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Book of Common Prayer
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:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Alexander Dyce
have to conceive, to understand: “You have me, have you not?” HAMLET, ii. 1. 68. .
Quote:
Originally Posted by Alexander Dyce
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:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shakespeare Lexicon. Alexander Schmidt. Berlin. Georg Reimer. 1902.
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.

Last edited by The Devil's Grandmother; 02-04-2011 at 02:27 PM..
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Old 02-04-2011, 03:38 PM
Al Bundy Al Bundy is offline
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I think it means the wife gets to have whatever the groom is holding for all time.
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Old 02-04-2011, 03:39 PM
Omar Little Omar Little is online now
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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.
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Old 02-04-2011, 03:49 PM
jayjay jayjay is offline
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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.
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Old 02-04-2011, 03:50 PM
Markxxx Markxxx is offline
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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
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Old 02-04-2011, 03:52 PM
Giles Giles is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Devil's Grandmother View Post
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".
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Old 02-04-2011, 03:58 PM
Shmendrik Shmendrik is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jayjay View Post
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.
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Old 02-04-2011, 04:06 PM
The Devil's Grandmother The Devil's Grandmother is offline
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Thanks Giles! I don't have access to an OED here at work, so I was just digging through internet sources.

Last edited by The Devil's Grandmother; 02-04-2011 at 04:06 PM..
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Old 02-04-2011, 04:07 PM
Exapno Mapcase Exapno Mapcase is offline
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Hold as in behold. From etymonline.com:
Quote:
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.
Quote:
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).
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Old 02-04-2011, 04:20 PM
Long Time Lurker Long Time Lurker is offline
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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".
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  #12  
Old 02-05-2011, 09:07 AM
Giles Giles is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Long Time Lurker View Post
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:
Quote:
Originally Posted by OED
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.
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  #13  
Old 02-05-2011, 01:14 PM
matt_mcl matt_mcl is offline
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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.

Last edited by matt_mcl; 02-05-2011 at 01:18 PM..
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