1. A man joined to another person in marriage; a male spouse.
2. Chiefly British A manager or steward, as of a household.
3. Archaic A prudent, thrifty manager.
tr.v. hus·band·ed, hus·band·ing, hus·bands
1. To use sparingly or economically; conserve: husband one's energy.
2. Archaic To become a husband to.
[Middle English huseband, from Old English hūsbōnda, from Old Norse hūsbōndi : hūs, house + bōndi, būandi, householder, present participle of būa, to dwell; see bheuə- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
Word History: The English word husband, even though it is a basic kinship term, is not a native English word. It comes ultimately from the Old Norse word hūsbōndi, meaning "master of a house," which was borrowed into Old English as hūsbōnda. The second element in hūsbōndi, bōndi, means "a man who has land and stock" and comes from the Old Norse verb būa, meaning "to live, dwell, have a household." The master of the house was usually a spouse as well, of course, and it would seem that the main modern sense of husband arises from this overlap. When the Norsemen settled in Anglo-Saxon England, they would often take Anglo-Saxon women as their wives; it was then natural to refer to the husband using the Norse word for the concept, and to refer to the wife with her Anglo-Saxon (Old English) designation, wīf, "woman, wife" (Modern English wife). Interestingly, Old English did have a feminine word related to Old Norse hūsbōndi that meant "mistress of a house," namely, hūsbonde. Had this word survived into Modern English, it would have sounded identical to husband—surely leading to ambiguities.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2019 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.