droit du seigneur

droit du seigneur

[French drwa dy se-nyœr]
the supposed right claimable by a feudal lord to have sexual relations with the bride of a vassal on her first night of marriage.

1815–25; < French: literally, right of the lord

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World English Dictionary
droit du seigneur (French drwa dy sɛɲœr)
in feudal times, the right of a lord to have sexual intercourse with a vassal's bride on her wedding night
[from French, literally: the right of the lord]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
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Word Origin & History

droit du seigneur
1784, alleged medieval custom whereby the feudal lord had the right to have sex with the bride of his vassal on their wedding night before she went to her husband, from Fr., lit. "the lord's right." There is little evidence that it actually existed; it seems to have been invented in imagination 16c.
or 17c. The L. form was jus primæ noctis, "law of the first night."
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Encyclopedia Britannica

droit du seigneur

(French: "right of the lord"), a feudal right said to have existed in medieval Europe giving the lord to whom it belonged the right to sleep the first night with the bride of any one of his vassals. The custom is paralleled in various primitive societies, but the evidence of its existence in Europe is all indirect, involving records of redemption dues paid by the vassal to avoid enforcement of some lordly rights. Many intellectual investigations have been devoted to the problem. A considerable number of feudal rights were related to the vassal's marriage, particularly the lord's right to select a bride for his vassal, but these were almost invariably redeemed by a money payment, or "avail"; and it seems likely that the droit du seigneur amounted, in effect, only to another tax of this sort.

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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