Meaning of handfast in English:


Pronunciation /ˈhan(d)fɑːst/


[with object] archaic
  • Engage (someone) to be married.

    ‘she was handfasted to my older brother Lewis’
    • ‘they had been handfasted when they were but twelve years old’
    • ‘Though Brenna had agreed to handfast with him, he wondered if she might still change her mind.’
    • ‘Why in the name of all that is holy did that man handfast to her?’
    • ‘I would like to handfast with him tonight, before he leaves on the voyage.’
    • ‘Others vow to handfast for life while a few, in accordance with Pagan beliefs in reincarnation, do so for all their future lives as well.’
    • ‘A couple may choose to handfast for the traditional period of a year and a day.’
    • ‘I have a wonderful man who loves me, and we were handfasted this past Summer.’
    • ‘Let those who would love one another, and would be as one and bear child, be handfasted.’
    • ‘The man to whom I was handfasted for many years is a gifted blacksmith.’
    • ‘Incensed by her rejection he cautioned Agnes that he would force her into marriage by falsely claiming she had handfasted with him.’
    • ‘Despite his doubts, when Gemma faces deceipt and danger, Drummond handfasts with her.’


  • An engagement or marriage contract.

    ‘the only thing that can undo a handfast is a lack of love’
    • ‘Since she's naught but an orphan, lacking dowry and family, then you should be content with a handfast.’
    • ‘As late as the sixteenth century the issue of a handfast marriage claimed the earldom of Sutherland’
    • ‘He was the offspring of a handfast union.’
    • ‘In the Lake District in the sixteenth century a handfast was supposed to last no longer than a year and a day.’
    • ‘Handfasts were common in Tudor England.’
    engagement, betrothment, marriage contract


Late Old English from Old Norse handfesta ‘strike a bargain by joining hands’.