The Meaning of Concubine: What It Is and How To Use It

Do you know the definition of concubine? This article will provide you with all of the information you need on the word concubine, including its definition, etymology, usage, examples, and more!

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What does the word concubine mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language and American Heritage, the word concubine is a noun that refers to a woman that a man cohabits with without being married, either in the sense of an adulterous mistress or a person who has a recognized social status in a household below that of a wife. Concubine is three syllables – con-cu-bine, and the pronunciation of concubine is ˈkäŋ-kyu̇-ˌbīn. 

Under Roman law, such concubines could be used for sexual purposes or to create heirs of their father via reproduction. The kept mistress had different legal rights than the lawful wife, and a low social status in comparison to the full marriage. There was a lack of recognition and a low social rank status for the concubine, who was seen as having a mere sexual relationship and was the wife of inferior condition to the existing marriage. They were seen more as slaves, and not equivalent to the wife in any way. Wherever there was social discouragement, there was also a lack of recognition by appropriate authorities

Concubines are seen in the Bible, like Hagar and Ishmael in Israel. The argument over the legality of the rape of a concubine led to a Civil War in the Israelite nation. Some believe the Hebrew word for wife and concubine are the same, but this is a misconception. Many an emperor in history has had his share of concubines, especially in Imperial China.

Many different languages also contain words that mean concubine. You may notice that a lot of these different words look quite similar to the word concubine. These are called cognates, which are formed when two words have the same root or language of origin. This list of translations for the word concubine is provided by Word Sense.

  •  Korean: 첩‎ (妾‎)
  •  German: Konkubine‎ (fem.)
  •  Thai: (royal) นางสนม‎ (naang sà-nŏm)
  •  Finnish: avovaimo‎
  •  Bokmål: konkubine‎ (masc.) (f)
  •  Czech: konkubína‎ (fem.)
  •  Indonesian: selir‎
  •  Macedonian: наложница‎ (fem.)
  •  Cyrillic: конкубина‎ (fem.)
  •  Portuguese: concubina‎ (fem.), amásia‎ (fem.), barregã‎ (fem.)
  •  Russian: нало́жница‎ (fem.), (kept woman) содержа́нка‎ (fem.)
  •  Basque: ohaide‎
  •  Spanish: concubina‎ (fem.)
  •  Vietnamese: vợ lẻ‎, (dated) nàng hầu‎
  •  Mandarin: 妾‎ (qiè), 姨太太‎ (yítàitài), 妃‎ (fēi) (imperial concubine), 側室‎, 侧室‎ (cèshì) (archaic)
  •  Arabic: سُرِّيَة‎ (fem.)
  •  Greek: παλλακίδα‎ (fem.)
  •  Japanese: 妾‎ (めかけ, mekake, しょう, shō), めかけ‎ (mekake), 側室‎ (そくしつ, sokushitsu)
  •  French: concubine‎ (fem.)
  •  Nynorsk: konkubine‎ (fem.)
  •  Danish: konkubine‎ (common)
  •  Belarusian: нало́жніца‎ (fem.)
  •  Latin: paelex‎ (fem.), concubīna‎ (fem.), amāsia‎ (fem.) (Mediaeval), amīca‎ (fem.), coniūnx‎ (common), pallaca‎ (fem.)
  •  Bulgarian: нало́жница‎ (fem.)
  •  Roman: konkubina‎ (fem.)
  •  Hungarian: ágyas‎
  •  Swahili: suria‎
  •  Slovak: konkubína‎ (fem.)
  •  Ukrainian: нало́жниця‎ (fem.)
  •  Tagalog: kaagulo‎
  •  Polish: nałożnica‎ (fem.), konkubina‎ (fem.) 

What is the origin of the word concubine?

According to Etymonline, the word concubine has been used since the year 1300 to refer to a woman who cohabits with a man without being married to him. This has also been used in Hebrew, Greek, Roman and other civilizations where the position was recognized by law as a sort of secondary wife. This comes from the Latin concubina and Latin concubinus, the feminine and mascule forms of the word. Usually the concubine was lower in social order, but the order of concubine, though below matrimonium, was less reproachful than adulterium or stuprum. This comes from the Latin concumbere meaning to lie with, from the root com meaning together and the root cubare meaning to lie down. Related words include concubinary (adj.), concubinal (adj.), concubinage (n.) and cubicle (n.)

What are synonyms for the word concubine?

There are many different words a person can use in place of the word concubine. These are called synonyms, which are words and phrases that have the same meaning as another given word or phrase. Learning synonyms is a great way to expand your English language vocabulary and avoid repeating yourself. This list of synonyms of concubine is provided by Thesaurus.

  •  bedmate
  •  dream girl
  •  kept woman
  •  shack job
  •  moll
  •  harlot
  •  best girl
  •  roommate
  •  sugar
  •  sweetheart
  •  shack
  •  paramour
  •  old lady
  •  sweetie
  •  mistress
  •  girlfriend
  •  inamorata
  •  main squeeze
  •  fancy woman
  •  prostitute
  •  courtesan
  •  ladylove
  •  other woman
  •  doxy
  •  chatelaine

How can the word concubine be used in a sentence?

The word concubine can be used in many different ways in the English language. Using words in a sentence is a great way to memorize their definitions. You can also try making flashcards or quizzes to test your knowledge of these different words. Try using this word of the day in a sentence today! Below are a few examples of concubine to get you started. 

Isaac’s concubine was seen as a shame upon the family. However, no one knew that his wife was unable to bear children. They were willing to receive social judgment to further their lineage.

Did you see Ron’s new girl? She dresses like a concubine. I don’t know how he goes out with her looking like that.

Oh my God, Jen broke up with John. She found out he had some secret concubine in the city and that’s why he was always at work late.

Overall, the word concubine means someone who has sex with a certain man without being married to him, whether as a secret mistress or wife outside the usual ceremonies. These polygamous peoples have neen seen throughout history as being of an inferior rank, sometimes used for the inability of a wife to provide a child. This c13 word comes from Middle English, Old french, and the Latin concubīna, which uses the feminine suffix īna from the variant stem of concumbō. It is seen in the Bible in Genesis and Exodus, in the concubines of Abraham and other chronicles.

Sources:

  1. CONCUBINE Synonyms: 3 Synonyms & Antonyms for CONCUBINE | Thesaurus 
  2. concubine: meaning, origin, translation | Word Sense 
  3. concubine | Origin and meaning of concubine | Online Etymology Dictionary 
  4. Concubine | Definition of Concubine | Merriam-Webster