take a wife: Idiom Meaning and Origin

What does ‘take a wife’ mean?

The idiom "take a wife" means to marry someone, referring to the act of a man entering into a marital relationship with a woman.

Idiom Explorer

Unraveling Marital Commitment

The idiom "take a wife" is a commonly used phrase in the English language that signifies the act of entering into marriage. It is composed of the verb "take," which means to accept or choose, and the noun "wife," which refers to a married woman. When used in a figurative sense, this idiom serves as a metaphor for the commitment and responsibility associated with the union of marriage.

Throughout different periods and cultural contexts, the idiom "take a wife" has remained relatively consistent in its meaning. It is primarily used to indicate a heterosexual union between a man and a woman. However, as societal and legal perspectives on marriage continue to evolve, the idiom may be used to encompass same-sex marriages and non-binary relationships as well.

Marriage has been a foundational institution in human society, serving various purposes throughout history. The concept of taking a wife has roots in societal norms and expectations regarding the formation of a family unit, the continuation of lineage, and the division of labor.

In modern usage, the idiom "take a wife" is still prevalent, but it is slowly being replaced by more gender-neutral expressions such as "get married" or "enter into matrimony." This shift reflects a broader societal move towards inclusivity and the recognition of diverse forms of love and commitment.

Their union strengthened with a sacred matrimony.

Despite its enduring presence in the English language, the idiom "take a wife" is not without its criticisms. Some argue that the idiom objectifies women by implying ownership or possession. Additionally, its phrasing places the emphasis on the individual who is "taking" the wife, rather than highlighting the mutual partnership and shared decision-making that underlies a successful marriage.

When couples decide to marry, they often choose to "marry off" their daughters. This idiom refers to the act of getting one's daughter married. While the phrase may carry some outdated connotations, it is still used colloquially to describe the act of arranging a marriage for one's daughter. The idiom "take a wife" can be related to this phrase, as it signifies the commitment of choosing a wife and participating in the marriage process.

Another related idiom is "tie the knot," which is often used interchangeably with "take a wife." The phrase "tie the knot" is believed to come from the tradition of handfasting, where a couple's hands would be tied together to symbolize their union. Today, it serves as a metaphor for the act of getting married and signifies the binding commitment and union between two individuals.

Additionally, the idiom "take the bait" shares a similar structure with "take a wife." While the meanings are distinct, the phrase "take the bait" refers to falling for a trap or becoming enticed by something. In the context of marriage, however, the idiom "take a wife" can be seen as an affirmative choice to enter into a lifelong commitment and partnership, rather than being lured or tricked into it.

While the idiom "take a wife" may still be commonly understood and used in contemporary society, its origins and historical significance remain somewhat elusive. The idiom's longevity demonstrates how language evolves and adapts over time, shaping our perceptions of relationships and societal values. As we continue to navigate evolving perspectives on marriage and gender roles, the idiom "take a wife" reminds us of the complexities, traditions, and cultural expectations that are woven into the fabric of this universal institution.

Example usage

Examples of how the idiom "take a wife" can be used in a sentence:

  • He finally decided to take a wife and settle down.
  • It is a tradition in his culture for the eldest son to take a wife before inheriting the family business.
  • After years of being single, he took a wife who brought happiness into his life.

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