TRIVIAL PURSUITS: From Where Did the Word ‘Mortgage’ Come?

Anyone who has gone through the process of obtaining a mortgage knows it can feel like signing your life away; and the word’s origin makes it sound as such.

From where did the word “mortgage” come?


The word comes from Old French morgage, literally “dead pledge,” from mort (dead) and gage (pledge). According to the online etymology dictionary, it is so called because the deal dies when the debt is paid or when payment fails.


The Institutes of the Lawes of England are a series of legal treatises written by Sir Edward Coke. They were first published, in stages, between 1628 and 1644. This is what Coke wrote about a mortgage in 1664: “And it seemeth, that the cause why it is called mortgage is, for that it is doubtful whether the feoffor will pay at the day limited such sum or not: and if he doth not pay, then the land which is put in pledge upon condition for the payment of the money, is taken from him for ever, and so dead to him upon condition. And if he doth pay the money, then the pledge is dead as to the tenant.”