Doing the Blogging from A to Z Challenge is definitely forcing my etymological endeavours into new territories and the results are not always sweet, especially when I find that an origin I had always held to be true turns out to be wrong. This is exactly the case with today’s entry: honeymoon.
I had always believed the false etymology, that many years ago it was customary for news bride to drink mead for a month after the wedding. This would increase her chances of getting pregnant and having a boy. Mead comes from honey and month comes from moon, hence honeymoon.
Unfortunately, this makes for a nice story but it is not true.
The term actually originates in the 16th century. Honeymoon still refers to the first month of marriage but specifically to the idea that this period is when the new marriage is still sweet and tender. So the honey part comes from the sweetness of the new love and the moon part from either the length of the period, a month, or it is an allusion to the quickly changing aspect of the relationship: as soon as it is full, it begins to wane.
Now we refer to a honeymoon as specifically the holiday taken after the wedding and this practice came about in the 1800s. We use the term honeymoon period to refer to the sweetness after a new partnership but considering what honeymoon originally meant, we are basically saying ‘new partnership sweetness period period’.
French and Spanish have the literal cognates lune de miel and luna de miel respectively but the Germans say flitterwochen which comes from flitter, ‘tinsel’, and wochen, ‘weeks’. Still, all three refer to the same notion: the quickly fading period of sweetness after the marriage. It seems like a fairly cynical idea to me and personally, I’d still rather the false etymology be true.