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Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English hondfast, past participle of Middle English hondfesten (to betroth), from Old Norse handfesta (to strike a bargain, pledge), itself from hönd (hand) + festa (to fasten, fix, affirm) (compare see past- in Indo-European roots).


handfast (plural handfasts)

  1. (obsolete) A hold, grasp; custody, power of confining or keeping.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Shakespeare to this entry?)
  2. (obsolete) A contract, agreement, covenant; specifically betrothal, espousal.


handfast (third-person singular simple present handfasts, present participle handfasting, simple past and past participle handfasted)

  1. (transitive) To pledge; to bind
  2. (transitive, Wicca) To betroth by joining hands, in order to allow for a wedlease or temporary cohabitation before the celebration of marriage; to marry provisionally.
    • (1820) When we are handfasted, as we term it, we are man and wife for a year and a day; that space gone by, each may choose another mate, or, at their pleasure, may call the priest to marry them for life; and this we call handfasting. - Sir Walter Scott, The Monastery



  1. (obsolete) Fast by contract; betrothed by joining hands.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Bale to this entry?)

Etymology 2[edit]

German Handfest, itself from Hand (hand) + fest (firm, strong).


handfast (comparative more handfast, superlative most handfast)

  1. (rare) Strong; steadfast.