Discuss word origins and meanings.


Post by Ken Greenwald » Wed Apr 25, 2007 11:32 pm

Our esteemed member Bob in Wales has been using the word MOITEY for his significant other (well, he will explain in his own words) on this website for some time. Esteemed member Shelley
suggested in the posting haveno truck (one might ask how we got from ‘have no truck’ to ‘moitey,’ but these things do happen!) that perhaps there should be a separate thread devoted to this topic, and I agree. So, here are the comments leading up to the discussion of MOITEY:
Posted - 20 Apr 2007 : 09:51:05
"Have no truck with..." is still in common use here. . . . . Truck shops were very common in the Wales of the Ironmaster . . . .

Bob in Wales
Posted - 20 Apr 2007 : 11:57:36
Bob, your truck shops remind me of the "company store" -- to which the toiler in the song "Sixteen Tons" owes his soul.

Posted - 25 Apr 2007 : 08:25:17
Whatever is a moiety? And anyway, I live in Wales, and until this week it had not rained for nearly 2 months! My 'moiety' was getting seriously worried about the veg.

Tony Farq
Posted - 25 Apr 2007 : 09:29:26
Tony, I first came to Wordwizard looking for a word that I could use instead of “partner”, so I posted this. John Barton in New Zealand suggested moiety, and I have used it ever since.

You are right about it being a bit dry of late, but is not what we are known for is it? Ireland only has the "forty shades of green" because they get the wet stuff before us.

I have thanked the Celtic gods for the dry spell however, because most evenings I have been out knocking doors and bothering people asking them if they are going to vote for "us". Don't ask who "us" is, I do try to keep politics out of my posts.

Bob in Wales
Posted - 25 Apr 2007 : 18:59:51
So glad this came up! According to my computer's Encarta Dictionary (embedded software in Microsoft Windows Explorer):

Moiety (noun)
1. one of two parts

either of the two parts, not necessarily equal, into which something is divided (formal)

2. social group
ANTHROPOLOGY among Native South Americans and Aboriginal Australians, one of two halves into which society is divided for ritual and marriage purposes.

Moiety is a really cool word which, until Bobinwales used it to describe his dear one, I'd only seen or heard in Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale. Both the King (boo!) and Queen (yay!) use the term: King Leontes refers to it as a part of his sleep; the Queen Hermione to a part of the throne (what it represents -- relationship and then some).
Nor night nor day no rest: it is but weakness
To bear the matter thus; mere weakness.
. . . say that she were gone,
Given to the fire, a moiety of my rest
Might come to me again

. . . For behold me
A fellow of the royal bed, which owe
A moiety of the throne
, a great king's daughter,
The mother to a hopeful prince, here standing
To prate and talk for life and honour 'fore
Who please to come and hear.
I have to twist my brain a little to wrap it around your particular use of moiety, Bob. "My moiety" being a whole thing all by itself doesn't exactly work, but when "my moiety" means "part of myself" I can get it. It must be the possessive "my" that's getting in the way. ;-) I do think it's a great word to use, though, for the purpose.

(Perhaps this should be a new thread called "moiety", but I will leave that to the administrators.)



Post by trolley » Wed Apr 25, 2007 11:50 pm

Tom divided the cake and Becky ate with good appetite, while Tom nibbled at his moiety.
-- Mark Twain, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

.....I hope Tom's moiety was alright with that.


Post by Ken Greenwald » Thu Apr 26, 2007 4:26 am

Shelley, Bob, et al, Very interesting! I always liked the term, but never realized that it was a real word, which actually does mean significant other, etc. in addition to its other senses, which I also never knew existed.

The Oxford English Dictionary has quite a bit to say on this one and here is a rundown:


1) A half, one of two equal parts.

a) In legal or quasi-legal use [1444]:
<circa 1450 “Ranulphe . . . gave unto Wyllm ferrers, erle of derbie in Kinge Johns tyme, the MOYTIE, or one half, of the said hundred of Repingdon in marryage wythe Agnes his syster.”—‘Chronicles of Repton’ in ‘Journal of the Derbyshire Archaeological & Natural History Society’ (1902), Vol. 24, page 71>

<1603 “Mandron . . . offered him the one MOTIE of his country and city.”—‘The Morals’ by Plutarch, translated by P. Holland, page 497>

<circa 1715 “All . . . were required to bring in one MOIETY of their fines: But the other MOIETY was forgiven those who took the Declaration.”—‘ ‘History of his Own Time’ (1724) by Bishop G. Burnett, I. page 214>

<1838 “(under moite): A sum payable in MOIETIES is payable in two equal shares, though sometimes, erroneously, the term is applied to a sum payable in two or three different parts or instalments.”—‘A Dictionary and Digest of the Law of Scotland’ by W. Bell>

<1910 “In 1444 Sir John Beauchamp purchased the remaining MOIETY of the manor.”—‘Encyclopedia Britannica,’ I. page 519/1>

<1930 “It may be another year before the Egypt's gold is salvaged, even then a salvage court may have to decide how much of the Egypt's $5,000,000 the Artiglio's owners may keep. Ancient rule of the sea is that ‘The salvage award of an abandoned vessel amounts to a MOIETY [50 percent] of the salved value.’ The Artiglio's owners hope for more.”—‘Time Magazine,’ 7 October>

<1971 “The opportunity of acquiring half the shares in the Regent Oil Company—the other MOIETY was held by Caltex.”—‘Riding the Storm’ by H. Macmillan, ii. page 45>

<1980 “. . . the game protectors originally worked under the so-called ‘MOIETY’ system, in which they received half the fine that was levied against the convicted poacher; the court got the other half. The MOIETY system disappeared by 1910, . . .”—‘New York Times,’ 9 November, page WC15>
b) In general use. Now rare [circa 1500]
<1590 “They . . . were depriv'd Of their proud beautie, and th'one MOYITY transformd to fish . . .”—‘The Faerie Queene’ by Spenser, II. xii. page 31>

<1641 “I know they will not turn the beame of equall Judgement the MOITY of a scruple.”—‘Of Reformation Touching Church Discipline in England’ by Milton, page 73>

<1776 “We might suspect, that war, pestilence, and famine, had consumed, in a few years, the MOIETY of the human species.”—‘The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire’ by Gibbon, x.>

<1897 “Hereditary taint may be traced in a very large proportion of alcoholic cases—it is said in nearly a MOIETY.”—‘ A System of Medicine’ by T. C. Allbutt, II. page 850>

<1922 “Cleanchested. He has washed the upper MOIETY.”—‘Ulysses’ by James Joyce, page 39>
2a) (obsolete) A part of a larger whole; a small or lesser share [[small fraction]], portion, or quantity (obsolete); a small amount. Now rare. [1594]
<1594 “The love I dedicate to your Lordship is without end: whereof this pamphlet without beginning is but a superfluous MOITY.”—‘The Rape of Lucrece’ by Shakespeare, Dedication, A2>

<1610 “. . .say that she were gone, . . . a MOIETY of my rest Might come to me again.”—“The Winter’s Tale” by Shakespeare, II. iii>

<1650 “All that will be left of this learned discourse of yours, will prove such a small MOITIE of that knowledge your presumptuous mind conceited to be in her self, that [etc.].”—‘ Enthusiasmus Triumphatus’ (1656) by Henry More, page 144>

<1783 “So has this extraordinary edifice [[No. 10 Downing Street]] cost the country—for one MOIETY of which sum, a much better dwelling might have been purchased."—‘Morning Herald,’ 21 June>

<1828 “Every body pretends to a MOIETY of lettered wisdom; every fool can write; and every ass is a critic.”—‘Age Reviewed’ by R. Montgomery, I. page 131>

<1913 “It's yerself that knows how t'make a MOI’TY go th' longest distance over dhry [sic] throats an' empty stomachs!”—‘My Lady of Chimney-corner’ by A. F. Irvine, page 64>

<1994 “To alter McCune Smith a MOIETY, Frederick Douglass was more than the representative of his time: he was that time's very ticking.”—‘Callaloo,’ Vol. 17, page 625>
2b) Either of two (occasionally more) parts (not necessarily equal) into which something is divided; one's share or portion. [1597]
<1598 “Methinks my MOIETY, north from Burton here, In quantity equals not one of yours”—‘First Part of Henry IV’ by Shakespeare, III. i>

<1655 “Crowned Monarch of the Southern and greater MOIETY of this Island.”—‘The Church-History of Britain’ by T. Fuller, II. iv. §5>

<circa 1674 “The greater MOIETY of the world being . . . mere heathen men and pagans.”—“A Brief View and Survey of the Errors to Church and State in Hobbes' Leviathan” (1676) by Lord Clarendon, page 261>

<1704 “[Unable to] pay off the last MOYETIE of his prentice fee.”—in ‘Rothsay Parish Record’ (1931) by H. Paton, page 182>

<1854 “Physiological Science . . . Its subject-matter is a large MOIETY of the universe.”—Lay Sermons’ (1870) by Thomas H. Huxley, v. page 98>

<1876 “Tom divided the cake and Becky ate with good appetite, while Tom nibbled at his MOIETY.”—‘Adventures of Tom Sawyer’ by Mark Twain, xxxi. page 242>

<1910 “As soon as they reached the legal working age only a scanty MOIETY . . . became self-supporting.”—‘Twenty Years at Hull-House’ by J. Addams, xvi. page 382>

<1938 “A significant MOIETY of Mr. Weissberger's collection were drawings which Loyalist schoolteachers had their pupils do on ‘The Life of the Child’ before and during the war. ‘Time Magazine,’ 30 May>

<1995 “The peculiarly human . . . capacity to pass on thoughts and feelings—even a large MOIETY of personal identity—from one generation to the next.”—“Harper’s Magazine,” April, page 61>
2c) Chemistry and Biochemistry. A group of atoms forming a distinct part of a large molecule. [[very widely used in these areas with thousands upon thousands of examples to be found in scientific journals]] [1935]
<1935 Carbohydrate MOIETY, the non-nitrogenous residue of the amino acids resulting from deamination.”—‘Medical Dictionary’ (edition 17) by W. A. N. Dorland & E. C. L. Miller, page 842/1>

<1945 “The lactone MOIETY [of pantothenic acid] can replace pantothenic acid for growth of the above organisms.”—‘Journal of Biological Chemistry,’ Vol. 159, page 311>

<1954 “The other penicillins have the same type of structure but have different side chains replacing the benzyl (C6H 5CH2 – ) MOIETY.”—‘Principles of Biochemistry’ by A. White, xii. page 265>.

<1974 “Its molecular structure (containing both an indole and a phenylethylamine MOIETY) suggests the possibility of an interaction with brain monoamines.”—‘Nature,’ 13 December, page 586/2>

<1993 “The electron absorption spectra presented are due to the cationic MOITIES.”—‘Dyes & Pigments,’ Vol. 21, page 16>
3) (obsolete) humorous. One's wife or husband. Cf. better half [1611]
<1611 “Yet sith I am the MOITY of my wife And one selfe Purse supporteth eithers life, I must confesse I am the better for you.”—‘ The Scourge of Folly’ by John Davies (of Hereford), cxx. page 58>

<1699 “This whole family are well, and presents their service to you and the whole College. My service to the other MOIETY.”—‘Letters’ of John Lock, in ‘Correspondence of Locke & Clarke’ (1927), 23 January, page 552> [[Hmm. Sounds lecherous to me!]]

<1737 “It was to deprive the Husband of the voluntary Love of his MOIETY.”—‘Memoirs of G. di Lucca’ by S. Berington, page 227>

<1770 “Among the grievances against which Mr. Bustle exclaims abroad, is the excessive neatness of his notable MOIETY.”—“Lady’s Magazine,” Vol. 1, page 228/2>

<1829 “The Lady with a skeleton MOIETY in the old print.”—‘Gem’ by C. Lamb, page 25>

<1846 “Mrs. Featherton saw . . . that something had happened to her helpmate . . . and . . . she determined to bring her inferior MOIETY to auricular confession.”—‘Wilderness & War Path’ by James Hall, page 164>
4) Anthropoogy. Either of two primary social or ritual groups, usually exogamous [[the custom of marrying outside the tribe, family, clan, or other social unit]], into which a society is divided; specifically one among a tribe of Australian Aborigines. [1883]
<1883 “If we now . . . separate the whole into its two constituent MOIETIES, we shall have exactly a representation in each of the assumed forms of the divided commune, in which the two divisions are in fact totems.”—‘Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland,’ Vol. 12, page 510>

<1914 “The dual system in which there are only two social groups or moieties.”—Kinship & Social Organization’ by W. H. Rivers, iii. page 72>

<1936 “Where both MOIETIES and clans occur, the former are ordinarily more limited in their functions and of less social importance.”—‘The Study of Man’ by R. Linton, xii. page 207>

<1952 “Such MOIETY totemism . . . is found in a number of different varieties in Australia, and still other varieties are found in Melanesia and in North America.”—‘Structure & Function in Primitive Society’ by A. R. Radcliff-Brown, vi. page 118>

<1978 “The longhouse lineage of families was the basic unit of Seneca society. Lineages in turn built up into clans, clans into MOIETIES.”—“America’s Fascinating Indian Heritage” by J. A. Maxwell, iv. page 124/1>w

<1985 “Marriages between English-speaking and Afrikaans-speaking South Africans appeared . . . to occur . . . at the extremes of the social spectrum, . . . the offspring usually joining the Afrikaaner MOIETY at the lower end and the English MOIETY at the upper.”—‘Peoples of Southern Aftrican’ by G. T. Nurse et al, viii. page 215>

<1994 “When the girl was found, her father or some other close male relative from her father's clan or MOIETY made a brush house for her.”—‘Canadian Woman Studies,’ Fall, page 65/2>
(quotes from Oxford English Dictionary and other archived sources)

So, we see that MOITEY is real and has several different meaning. And it looks like our own Bob in Wales with the suggestion of our own John Barton will go down (at least in the annals of Wordwizard history and perhaps beyond – one never knows) as the man who resurrected, pumped life into, and popularized this wonderful and once defunct expression for one's partner, better half, etc., which certainly didn’t deserve to die.

Ken – April 25, 2007


Post by Bobinwales » Thu Apr 26, 2007 9:57 am

I like the word, even though I had my doubts at first, it didn’t seem to have quite a romantic enough ring, but it was the "half, one of two equal parts" description that settled it for me.

Moieties of the world unite. But suppose that by definition they do!
Signature: All those years gone to waist!
Bob in Wales


Post by Wizard of Oz » Fri Apr 27, 2007 5:45 am

.. Bob, how do you suggest that we pronounce it ?? .. is it moy-tee ?? .. or is it mow-ity ?? .. or something else again ..

WoZ of Aus 27/04/07
Signature: "The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."


Post by Erik_Kowal » Fri Apr 27, 2007 5:58 am


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Post by gdwdwrkr » Fri Apr 27, 2007 8:12 am



Post by Bobinwales » Fri Apr 27, 2007 8:51 am

I pronounce it MOY-IT-EE. Margaret tends to pronounce it "Daft bugger"
Signature: All those years gone to waist!
Bob in Wales


Post by Edwin Ashworth » Fri Apr 27, 2007 9:43 am

Catherine and I have no truck, but we do have a moiety car. We share the driving. Sadly, often simultaneously.


Post by NogaNote » Fri Apr 27, 2007 2:02 pm

Nice, useful word. I used it today even though I'm not at all sure it was the correct context for it. Can you speak of a right having a moiety to suggest that a right may consist of two, maybe unequal but important parts? And that you can't uphold a right without considering its moiety?

I am now waiting for an opportunity to use "carapace", another word I learned recently.

(technically, I just used it ,no? :-))


Post by Shelley » Fri Apr 27, 2007 2:30 pm

Speed up the pacecar apace.


Post by Erik_Kowal » Sat Apr 28, 2007 5:19 am

In the wake of the current controversy surrounding the affair between the still-married still-President of the World Bank, Paul Wolfowitz (one of the neocons who helped to engineer Bush's fraudulent war in Iraq) and his friend-with-very-substantial-benefits, Shaha Ali Riza, Slate Magazine contributor Ben Yagoda considers the question of what to call an unmarried partner of the opposite sex in an article aptly titled You Go, Companion.

The reader discussion forum responses to the article make for particularly entertaining reading, as do those submitted to Wonkette's discussion of the same topic. Of the suggestions from the latter, I was especially amused by 'cock puppet' and 'pelvic affiliate'. But that's probably just my perverse (or perverted) sense of humour.
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Post by Ken Greenwald » Sat Apr 28, 2007 5:23 am

After reading this on what one should call the 'girlfriend/companion/partner/. . .' of Bush's moral leader and corruption fighter at the World Bank, Paul Wolfowitz, MOIETY is sounding better and better!

Ken G – April 27, 2007


Post by Erik_Kowal » Sat Apr 28, 2007 7:08 am

In case it should need pointing out, you can torture the French for "me and you" -- via an extraordinary rendition -- into "moi et tu", which is almost 'moiety'.

Except that Wolfie would twist it to mean "It's all about moi" rather than "It's all about moi and you, bitch."
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Post by Wizard of Oz » Sat Apr 28, 2007 8:03 am

.. Wolfowitz and Porkowitz ?? ..

Signature: "The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."

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