AskDefine | Define handmaid

Dictionary Definition

handmaid

Noun

1 in a subordinate position; "theology should be the handmaiden of ethics"; "the state cannot be a servant of the church" [syn: handmaiden, servant]
2 a personal maid or female attendant [syn: handmaiden]

User Contributed Dictionary

English

Alternative spellings

Pronunciation

(US) IPA: /ˈhændˌmeɪd/

Noun

handmaid (plural: handmaids)
  1. A maid that waits at hand; a female servant or attendant.

Translations

Extensive Definition

A handmaiden (or handmaid) is a female attendant, assistant, servant, or slave.

Domestic work

Typically, royalty and nobility would have handmaidens.

Religion

Norse goddesses (such as Frigga) had handmaidens, as did Biblical characters such as Leah. http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=luke%201:38;&version=9; Handmaiden was also a common euphemism for a concubine; a man might use a handmaiden to bear his child if his wife was infertile - an example of this is the handmaiden (Bilhah) of the Biblical character Rachel, who gave birth to two of Jacob's children.
Handmaidens also feature heavily in rites associated with the Wiccan religion.

In fiction

Handmaids also feature in fiction, particularly fantasy and science fiction, such as the The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars and Doctor Who. The handmaids in Margaret Atwood's 1985 novel The Handmaid's Tale are a fictional example of handmaids used as concubines in an oppressive future society.
handmaid in Italian: Servitrice
handmaid in Japanese: 侍女
handmaid in Polish: Handmaiden
handmaid in Chinese: 侍女

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Charlie McCarthy, abigail, agent, amah, ancilla, appliance, au pair girl, ayah, betweenmaid, biddy, chambermaid, chaperon, companion, contrivance, cook, creature, device, duenna, dummy, dupe, femme de chambre, fille de chambre, gentlewoman, girl, go-between, handmaiden, hired girl, housemaid, implement, instrument, interagent, intermediary, intermediate, intermedium, kitchenmaid, lady-help, lady-in-waiting, lever, live-in maid, live-out maid, maid, maidservant, mechanism, mediator, medium, midwife, minion, nursemaid, organ, parlormaid, pawn, plaything, puppet, scullery maid, servant, servant girl, servitress, slave, soubrette, stooge, tool, toy, tweeny, upstairs maid, vehicle, waiting maid, wench
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