Honeymoons are among the most unique and beautiful experiences of a couple’s life: you get to spend time alone with your beloved, enjoying marriage before the stress kicks in, in a beautiful destination or exciting city. But how did it gets its name?
The first time the term pops up in literature is 1542, when Samuel Johnson provided a concise definition of the “hony moone” (as it’s called in Old English): his definition was riddled with cynicism, describing it as “the first month after marriage”, filled with warm affection and tenderness but which, like a moon, only just begins to experience fullness before it “begins to wane”.
Ten years later, in 1552, Richard Huloiet would expand on that cynicism, reminding everyone that although the couple may “loveth the other at the beginning exceedingly,” that affection and love is soon to drift away.
The actual etymology can be broken down thusly: the word “hony” or “honey” references the indeterminable period of time when love reigns supreme in a newlywed couple, a time of sweetness and unending affection. “Moone”, or “moon”, on the other hand, is a reference to the unavoidable fading of that affection and sweetness as reality sets in and life comes around bringing trouble and stress. Today, honeymoon mostly just refers to the vacation a couple takes after their wedding, when they get to literally escape from the pressure of regular life; but we can also use it when talking about a new, young couple and their “honeymoon period”, when they have just met and are blissfully unaware of the many ways in which they will someday disappoint each other.
If we look even further back in history, we can see the phrase “honeymoon” used as long ago as the 5th century – early pagan cultures kept time by marking the progression of the moon, and newlywed couples were encouraged to indulge in honey wine, also known as mead, during the first month, or moon, of their marriage.
One interesting thing to note about how our concept of a honeymoon has changed: the period of travel after the wedding wasn’t always about the couple having a romantic getaway. In the 19th century, travelling after a wedding was a way for the bride and groom to visit any relatives or friends who had been unable to attend the wedding.