HUSBAND, properly the “head of a household,” but now chiefly, used in the sense of a man legally joined by marriage to a woman, his “wife”; the legal relations between them are treated below under Husband and Wife. The word appears in O. Eng. as húsbonda, answering to the Old Norwegian húsbóndi, and means the owner or freeholder of a has, or house. The last part of the word still survives in “bondage” and “bondman,” and is derived from bua, to dwell, which, like Lat. colere, means also to till or cultivate, and to have a household. “Wife,” in O. Eng. wif, appears in all Teutonic languages except Gothic; cf. Ger. Weib, Dutch wijf, &c., and meant originally simply a female, “woman” itself being derived from wifman, the pronunciation of the plural wimmen still preserving the original i. Many derivations of “wife” have been given; thus it has been connected with the root of “weave,” with the Gothic waibjan, to fold or wrap up, referring to the entangling clothes worn by a woman, and also with the root of vibrare, to tremble. These are all merely guesses, and the ultimate history of the word is lost. It does not appear outside Teutonic languages. Parallel to “husband” is “housewife,” the woman managing a household. The earlier húswif was pronounced hussif, and this pronunciation survives in the application of the word to a small case containing scissors, needles and pins, cottons, &c. From this form also derives “hussy,” now only used in a deprecatory sense of a light, impertinent girl. Beyond the meaning of a husband as a married man, the word appears in connexion with agriculture, in “husbandry” and “husbandman.” According to some authorities “husbandman” meant originally in the north of England a holder of a “husband land,” a manorial tenant who held two ox-gangs or virgates, and ranked next below the yeoman (see J. C. Atkinson in Notes and Queries, 6th series, vol. xii., and E. Bateson, History of Northumberland, ii., 1893). From the idea of the manager of a household, “husband” was in use transferred to the manager of an estate, and the title was held by certain officials, especially in the great trading companies. Thus the “husband” of the East India Company looked after the interests of the company at the custom-house. The word in this sense is practically obsolete, but it still appears in “ship’s husband,” an agent of the owners of a ship who looks to the proper equipping of the vessel, and her repairs, procures and adjusts freights, keeps the accounts, makes chapter-parties and acts generally as manager of the ship’s employment. Where such an agent is himself one of the owners of the vessel, the name of “managing owner” is used. The “ship’s husband” or “managing owner” must register his name and address at the port of registry (Merchant Shipping Act 1894, § 59). From the use of “husband” for a good and thrifty manager of a household, the verb “to husband” means to economize, to lay up a store, to save.
HUSBAND AND WIFE, Law relating to. For the modes in which the relation of husband and wife may be constituted and dissolved, see Marriage and Divorce. The present article will deal only with the effect of marriage on the legal position of the spouses. The person chiefly affected is the wife, who probably in all political systems becomes subject, in consequence of marriage, to some kind of disability. The most favourable system scarcely leaves her as free as an unmarried woman; and the most unfavourable subjects her absolutely to the authority of her husband. In modern times the effect of marriage on property is perhaps the most important of its consequences, and on this point the laws of different states show wide diversity of principles.
The history of Roman law exhibits a transition from an extreme theory to its opposite. The position of the wife in the earliest Roman household was regulated by the law of Manus. She fell under the “hand” of her husband,—became one of his family, along with his sons and daughters, natural or adopted, and his slaves. The dominion which, so far as the children was concerned, was known as the patria potestas, was, with reference to the wife, called the manus. The subject members of the family, whether wife or children, had, broadly speaking, no rights of their own. If this institution implied the complete subjection of the wife to the husband, it also implied a much closer bond of union between them than we find in the later Roman law. The wife on her husband’s death succeeded, like the children, to freedom and a share of the inheritance. Manus, however, was not essential to a legal marriage; its restraints were irksome and unpopular, and in course of time it ceased to exist, leaving no equivalent protection of the stability of family life. The later Roman marriage left the spouses comparatively independent of each other. The distance between the two modes of marriage may be estimated by the fact that,