Where Does the Word Mortgage Come From?

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Have you ever wondered where the word “mortgage” originated? In the world of finance and homeownership, the term “mortgage” holds significant importance. Understanding the etymology of this word can provide valuable insights into its historical context and evolution. Join us as we delve into the origins of the word “mortgage” and explore its fascinating journey through time.

The Origin of the Word “Mortgage”

The word “mortgage” has a rich linguistic background that dates back centuries. Its roots can be traced to the Old French term “mort gage,” which translates to “dead pledge.” This intriguing term reflects the historical practice of pledging property as collateral until a debt is repaid. Over time, the phrase “mort gage” evolved into the word we use today: “mortgage.”

Ancient Origins of Mortgages

Mortgage-like transactions have been observed in various ancient civilizations, highlighting the enduring nature of property-based lending. For instance, in ancient Mesopotamia, the Code of Hammurabi contained provisions related to loans secured by real estate. Similarly, ancient Roman law recognized the concept of hypothecation, where property was used as security for loans. These early instances reveal the fundamental role that mortgages played in facilitating financial transactions even in ancient times.

Evolution of Mortgages throughout History

As societies progressed, so did the practices surrounding mortgages. Throughout history, mortgages have undergone significant changes, adapting to the needs and circumstances of different eras. From feudal times to the development of modern banking systems, mortgages have continuously evolved. Notable milestones include the emergence of mortgage-based securities in the 20th century and the subsequent rise of mortgage-backed securities in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  1. What is the literal meaning of the word “mortgage”?
    The word “mortgage” literally translates to “dead pledge” from its Old French origins. It symbolizes the temporary surrender of property as collateral until a debt is fully repaid.

  2. When was the term “mortgage” first used?
    The term “mortgage” was first used in the context of property-based loans during the Middle Ages. It gained prominence as a legal concept in England during the 12th century.

  3. Are there any alternative terms or synonyms for “mortgage”?
    While “mortgage” is the most commonly used term, there are alternative expressions such as “home loan,” “property loan,” or “real estate loan” that essentially refer to the same concept.

  4. How has the definition of “mortgage” changed over time?
    The definition of “mortgage” has expanded over time to encompass various loan structures and financial instruments. From traditional fixed-rate mortgages to adjustable-rate mortgages and mortgage-backed securities, the term has evolved to meet the changing demands of borrowers and investors.


In conclusion, the word “mortgage” holds a rich historical legacy that spans centuries. Originating from the Old French phrase “mort gage,” meaning “dead pledge,” this term has witnessed the evolution of property-based lending practices. From ancient civilizations to modern financial systems, mortgages have played a pivotal role in facilitating homeownership and driving economic growth. By understanding the origins and evolution of the word “mortgage,” we gain a deeper appreciation for its significance in our lives today.

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