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Borrowed from Middle French moytié, from Old French meitié (half) (modern French moitié (half)), from Late Latin medietās (centre, midpoint; half), from Latin medius (half; middle) + -tās (from Proto-Indo-European *-teh₂ts (suffix forming nouns indicating a state of being)). Medius is ultimately derived from Proto-Indo-European *médʰyos (middle), possibly from *me-dʰi- (among; with), from *me (in the middle of; among; with). The word is a doublet of mediety.



moiety (plural moieties)

  1. A half.
    • 1590, Edmund Spenser, “Book II, Canto XII”, in The Faerie Queene. [], London: [] [John Wolfe] for William Ponsonbie, OCLC 960102938, stanza 31, pages 370–371:
      They were faire Ladies, till they fondly ſtriu’d / With th’Heliconian maides for mayſtery; / Of whom they ouer-comen, were depriu’d / Of their proud beautie, and th’one moyity / Transform’d to fiſh, for their bold ſurquedry, / But th’vpper halfe their hew retayned ſtill, / And their ſweet skill in wonted melody; / Which euer after they abuſd to ill, / T’allure weake traueillers, whom gotten they did kill.
    • c. 1606–1607, William Shakespeare, “The Tragedie of Anthonie and Cleopatra”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies [] (First Folio), London: [] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, OCLC 606515358, [Act V, scene i], page 364, column 1:
      The death of Anthony / Is not a ſingle doome. In the name lay / A moity of the world.
    • 1634, “Chap[ter] XXII. An Act to Repeal a Statute, Made in the Twelfth Yeare of King Edward the Fourth, Concerning Bringing Bowes into This Realme.”, in Statutes Passed in the Parliaments Held in Ireland, volume I (Containing from the Third Year of Edward the Second, A.D. 1310, to the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Years of Charles the Second, A.D. 1662, inclusive), Dublin: Printed by George Grierson, [], published 1794, OCLC 671598467, page 274:
      [E]very merchant and paſſenger, that brings merchandizes into this land of Ireland out of England to the ſumme of one hundred pounds, that he ſhall buy and bring with him into the ſaid land in bowes to the value of one hundred ſhillings, [] and if any merchant or paſſenger bring any merchandize into the ſaid land, and bring with him no bowes as is afore rehearſed, that the ſaid merchant ſhall loſe and pay the value of the ſaid bowes, the one moietie thereof to the King, and the other moiety to the ſearchers of the ſame for the time being; []
    • 1829, “The Progress of Zoology”, in T[homas] Crofton Croker, editor, The Christmas Box. An Annual Present to Young Persons, London: John Ebers and Co. 27 Old Bond Street; Philadelphia, Pa.: Thomas Wardle, OCLC 22874885, page 176:
      From New Holland the emeu, / With his better moiety, / Has paid a visit to the Zo- / ological Society.
    • 1842, [anonymous collaborator of Letitia Elizabeth Landon], chapter XXVIII, in Lady Anne Granard; or, Keeping up Appearances. [], volume II, London: Henry Colburn, [], OCLC 1000392275, page 66:
      Suffer she must; but there are degrees of pain, and the whole catalogue of miseries which man, either from design or carelessness, inflicts on his weaker moiety, is trifling when compared to jealousy, as man himself occasionally knows from bitter experience.
    • 2009, Elizabeth Griffiths; Mark Overton, “Sharefarming Comes to Light: Early Modern Evidence”, in Farming to Halves: The Hidden History of Sharefarming in England from Medieval to Modern Times, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, →ISBN, page 50:
      Forty-eight inventories in the Cornwall sample include references to ‘moieties’ or halves of livestock and crops, while a quarter of these also included moieties of farm equipment and household stock. For example, Richard Cooke of Madron, in 1617, besides stock, stuff and equipment which he fully owned, left 1 moiety of a 2 year old heifer, 13s 4d; 1 moiety of ½ year beasts and advantage, 26s 8d; 3 moieties of horse, 50s; []
  2. A share or portion, especially a smaller share.
  3. (anthropology) Each descent group in a culture which is divided exactly into two descent groups.
    • 1973, Francis Korn, “A Question of Preferences: The Iatmül Case”, in Elementary Structures Reconsidered: Lévi-Strauss on Kinship, Berkeley; Los Angeles, Calif.: University of California Press, →ISBN, page 83:
      The villages are divided into two patrilineal totemic moieties and two patrilineal ceremonial moieties. The totemic moieties are subdivided into patrilineal clans (ngaiva): there are between fifty and a hundred clans of which between ten or twenty are represented in any one village [].
    • 1979, Åke Hultkrantz; Monica Setterwall, transl., “The Great Tribal Ceremonies”, in The Religions of the American Indians, Berkeley; Los Angeles, Calif.; London: University of California Press, published 1980, →ISBN, part I (Tribal Religions), page 112:
      The moieties are linked to or bear the names of beings or forces expressing the cosmic dichotomy. Most common are heaven and earth moieties, "above" and "below," or moieties named after birds and land animals (or aquatic animals), as is the case among the Winnebago and in the phratry system of the Northwest Coast Indians.
  4. (chemistry) A specific segment of a molecule.
    Aniline has both a phenyl and an amino moiety.
    • 1877, M[ichael] Foster, “The Metabolic Phenomena of the Body”, in A Text Book of Physiology, London: Macmillan and Co., OCLC 968464951, page 395:
      We are therefore driven to the conclusion that the proteid food is split into a urea moiety and a fatty moiety, that the urea moiety is at once discharged, and that such of the fatty moiety as is not made use of directly by the body is stored up as adipose tissue.
    • 1995, Drummond H. Bowden, “Pulmonary Defense Mechanisms”, in William M. Thurlbeck and Andrew M. Churg, editors, Pathology of the Lung, 2nd edition, New York, N.Y.: Thieme Medical Publishers; Stuttgart: Georg Thieme Verlag, →ISBN, page 102, column 1:
      [H]ydrolysis of sialic acid moieties by neuraminidase of myxoviruses facilitates cellular attachment and invasion, and the disturbed secretion and dispersion of mucin in cystic fibrosis facilitate colonization with P. aeruginosa.

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