We often use words whose origins we do not know. Although today they are used to name some object, person, or activity, in the past, they had a different meaning that may change the perception of what we understand in the present.
This premise applies to the word “mortgage.” Although today it is synonymous with the acquisition of a home, it had a more vague definition in its beginnings.
Can find the origin of a word in its etymology. This is a science in charge of studying the words through their letters’ composition, head, and meaning. It takes over time. This post intends to give you ideas about the importance of the origin of words and to discover what is behind the oldest concept of a mortgage.
The influence of French on English
English speakers are unaware of how many of the words we use have origins in French. The most common is “bon appetit,” but our language is more closely linked to French. French is one of the five languages that belong to the so-called “Romance languages” that originate from Latin. It was not until the IX century that it was considered a language of its own and distinguished from Latin.
At first, it was believed to be a unique derivative of the Germanic language, but it is now known that English is a composition between Romance and Germanic languages.
The etymology of “mortgage”: What does mortgage mean?
Now that we understand some origins of our language, we are mindful that many of our words have Romance roots, as does “mortgage.” In Old French, it translates as “dead pledge.” The prefix “mort,” which comes from the Latin “mortuus,” means “dead.” We use the same word for expressions we keep from Latin, such as “post mortem.”
While the suffix “gate” means commitment, but a commitment to fight, when we read tales of knights, they are often described as having an iron gauntlet, which they throw intending to fight someone. In that sense, “gage” is also used as a translation of “pledge,” representing this gauntlet.
When the word’s etymology is analyzed, the mortgage is a dead pledge. Not because it speaks of literal death, but because the promise “dies” when payment is missed or when all payments are made. That is to say, if the person paid within the estimated term, he would have the reward. Otherwise, it would take the land where this pledge is placed away with the commitment to serve as payment.
In other words: the mortgagor “dies” when the debt is defaulted or paid.
The “mortgage” today
Nowadays, the mortgage is one of the words that come to mind when we want to buy a house. It is defined as a property transfer to guarantee payment and fulfill all the terms signed in the agreement.
Generally, a mortgage applies to homes or land, but it is also valid for automobiles or works of art. The basic idea is to leave a valuable asset as security for payment in case of default.
If the debtor defaults on payments, the rules establish that the creditor has the right to put the collateral up for sale to recover the loan through a public auction, never through an outright sale.