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)
- (obsolete) A hold, grasp; custody, power of confining or keeping.
- (Can we find and add a quotation of Shakespeare to this entry?)
- (obsolete) A contract, agreement, covenant; specifically betrothal, espousal.
- (transitive) To pledge; to bind
- (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
- (obsolete) Fast by contract; betrothed by joining hands.
- (Can we find and add a quotation of Bale to this entry?)
- (rare) Strong; steadfast.