• morganatic •
Pronunciation: mor-gê-næ-tik • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: Pertaining to the kind of marriage between a member of the nobility and a commoner that blocks the transmission of noble rank to the commoner and precludes any claim by their offspring on the title or estate.
Notes: A morganatic marriage is sometimes called a "left-handed marriage" (from German Ehe zur linken Hand) because in the German morganatic ceremony the bridegroom gives the bride his left, rather than his right hand. Be careful not to drop a syllable; we hear morganic far too frequently.
In Play: Today's good word is a follow-up to the word consort, in which we claimed that Camilla Parker Bowles would not become Queen Consort when Prince Charles accedes to the throne. That was before the Department for Constitutional Affairs spoke out on the issue, affirming that she would become Queen by current law. This meant that their 2005 wedding would not be morganatic. However, Ms. Bowles declared that she would decline the title "Queen" if offered it.
Word History: Today's word is a reduction of a mildly Germanesque Latin phrase matrimonium ad morganaticam "marriage with a morning gift", morgan being a reduction of morgangeba, an earlier form of German Morgengabe "morning gift". The point was that the commoner in such a bond is entitled to nothing beyond the gift they receive on the morning after the wedding. In fact, the adjective may have been nothing more than a Latinization of a variant of the German compound, morganegeba, but you get the point.