Instead of the heavy urban policy analyses this blog has been conducting lately, we have a quick, informative, and (hopefully) fun post for you.
Mortgage. It’s an odd word. One that seemingly has nothing to do with any of the modern words we use for a “loan”. “Allowance”? “Credit”? “Advance” Nope, nope, and no.
According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, “Mortgage” shares an odd pronunciation in English, because of its Old French roots; “mort” meaning “dead”, and “gage” meaning “pledge”. Put that together and you have a “dead pledge”.
Death here does not refer to the borrower (yikes!), but instead to the loan itself. The loan “dies” when it is paid off or payments stop being made. This meaning conveyed an important distinction in medieval France (as it does today). In essence, “mortgage” tells the lender and borrower that the loan is secured with the property itself. If the loan “dies” before it’s paid off, the lender takes ownership of the property. Just like a bank does in foreclosure in modern times.
Be sure to share this new knowledge at your next dinner party!