• husband •
hêz-bênd • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Verb, transitive
Meaning: 1. To manage, take care of, as to husband a farm or the animals on it. 2. To economize, to use frugally, prudently, and judiciously.
Notes: The meaning of this word has drifted so far off course that it is losing ground against the more common noun husband, the male spouse. It is still a useful and often used verb, however, so let's be sure to keep it in our vocabulary. It is a sign of a healthy vocabulary that is capable of raising an eyebrow or two when used. The noun for either sense of this verb is husbandry.
In Play: In the first sense above, to manage, today's word is usually applied to agriculture, big and small: "Rose Budd husbands every flower in her garden as if it were one of her children." In the second sense, it applies to pretty much everything: "Well, our man Izzy Dare is certainly a person who husbands his wisdom and doesn't squander it on career decisions. I have no idea why he even puts in for promotions."
Word History: Today's Good Word is the remains of Old English husbonda, the English version of Old Norse husbondi "householder", a word left behind by the Vikings who were wont to raid the shores of Anglo-Saxon England. This word was a compound of hus "house" + bondi "dwelling, home-owner", the present participle of bua "to dwell". The noun was originally used as a verb in the sense of simply "running a household". Old Norse bua came from the same ancestor as English build and German bauen "to build". With the -n suffix it also became bond in the sense of a bondsman or serf, originally referring to someone bound to an estate. Those of us who own our own homes understand this sense of bonding very well. (Let us not husband our gratitude but lavish it upon Jackie Strauss for suggesting such a very Good Word for our series.)