From reality TV shows to The Beach Boys’ croons of Aruba and Jamaica, references to honeymoons are everywhere. But where did the term “honeymoon” first come from?
The etymology of the word comes from the Old English “hony moone.” Hony, a reference to honey, refers to the “indefinite period of tenderness and pleasure experienced by a newly wed couple,” and how sweet the new marriage is. Moone, meanwhile, refers to the fleeting amount of time that sweetness would last. While honeymoon has a positive connotation today, it was first used as a term to warn newlyweds about waning love.
The first recorded description of the word comes from 1542, when Samuel Johnson wrote: “The first month after marriage, when there is nothing but tenderness and pleasure; originally having no reference to the period of a month, but comparing mutual affection of newly-married persons to the changing moon which is no sooner full that it begins to wane…”
But don’t worry, the cynicism doesn’t stop there. In 1552, author Richard Huloet wrote: “Hony mone, a term proverbially applied to such as be newly married, which will not fall out at the first, but th’one loveth the other at the beginning exceedingly, the likelihood of their exceadings love appearing to aswage, ye which time the vulgar people call the hony mone.”
“Honeymoon” also has origins that date back to the 5th century, when cultures represented calendar time with moon cycles. Back then, a newlywed couple drank mead (the “honey”) during their first moon of marriage. Mead is a honey-based alcoholic drink believed to have aphrodisiac properties.
While most couples today travel on their honeymoon to be alone, it wasn’t always that way. Couples in 19th century Britain used their honeymoon to go on a bridal tour, where the pair traveled to visit friends and family who could not attend the wedding ceremony.