Online Encyclopedia


Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V17, Page 428 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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MAIDEN, or MAID, a young unmarried girl. " Maid" is a shortened form of " maiden," O. Eng. maegden, which represents a diminutive of a Teutonic word meaning " young person," of either sex. An old English word " may," meaning a kinsman or kinswoman, and also a virgin or girl, represents the original. In early usage " maiden " as meaning " virgin " is frequently applied to the male sex, thus, in Malory's Morte d'Arthur, Sir Percyvale is called a " parfyte clene megden." Apart from the direct applications of the word to the unmarried state, such as " maiden name," " maiden lady," &c., the word is used adjectivally, implying the preservation of the first state of an object, or indicating a first effort of any kind. Probably a " maiden " fortress is one which has never fallen, though the New English Dictionary suggests that the various "maiden castles" in England, usually ancient earthworks, may have been so called from being so strong that they could be defended by maidens, and points out that Edinburgh Castle, called " maiden-castle " by William Drummond of Hawthornden (Speech for Edinburgh to the King), is styled Castrum puellarum, the " castle of the maidens," in Geoffrey of Monmouth. A " maiden " assize, circuit or session is one at which there are no prisoners for trial; a " maiden over " or " maiden " in cricket is an over from which no runs are scored. A " maiden speech " is the first speech made by a member of parliament in the house. In the Annual Register for 1794 (quoted in N.E.D.) the expression, with reference to Canning's first speech, is said to be " according to the technical language of the house." " Maiden " is applied to several objects, to a movable framework or horse for drying and airing of linen, to a washerwoman's " dolly " or wooden beater, to the " kirnbaby " formed of the last sheaf of corn reaped which formerly figured in the Scottish harvest homes, and to the beheading instrument, known as the " Scottish maiden " (see below). " Maid," apart from its primary sense of an unmarried woman, is chiefly used for a domestic female servant, usually with a qualifying word prefixed, such as " housemaid," " parlour-maid," &c. The title of "MAID OF HONOUR" is given to an unmarried lady attached to the personal suite of a queen. The custom of sending young girls of noble or good birth to the court of a
End of Article: MAIDEN, or MAID

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