Printable Version
Pronunciation: mor-gij Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: A pledge of property as security for the repayment of a loan.

Notes: Today we use this word most frequently to refer to property mortgages in which a property, usually a home, is used as security to borrow the money to pay for the property. The noun may be used as a verb with no attachments, as to mortgage a home. The person who mortgages property for a loan is a mortgager (or mortgagor); the person or institution extending the loan is the mortgagee. Look out for the the T in these words: you never hear it, but you must write it.

In Play: I don't think this is legal but I know people who contemplate it: "Rothschild took out a second mortgage on his house to pay off the first one." I don't think this is legal, either, but . . . : "Finkelstein would mortgage his kids for tickets to a Super Bowl game. Mine, I would trade."

Word History: Today's Good if 'deadly' word comes from Old French gage mort "pledge dead (dead pledge)" later mort gage. The construction is based on Late Latin mortuum vadium "dead pledge" and had become morgagium in British legal documents by the 14th century. The reason for the meaning is apparently that if full payment is made, the mortgage document is annulled, making it legally 'dead'. The Latin root for "dead", mort-, is common in words borrowed from Latin: mortify, mortuary, mortal. However, gage is quite interesting. It is an Old Germanic word wadjo- that was borrowed by Old French when French had no [w] and so was written guage [gwahj], the U later dropping out. In English (a Germanic language) it ended up as wage, wager, and wed, as in wedding—all types of pledges. (Today's most popular Good Word was suggested almost simultaneously by Susan Lister and Sara Goldman, who ask that we mortgage nothing to enjoy it.)

Dr. Goodword,

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