AskDefine | Define handmaiden

Dictionary Definition

handmaiden

Noun

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

User Contributed Dictionary

English

Noun

  1. Variant spelling of handmaid.

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.
handmaiden in Italian: Servitrice
handmaiden in Japanese: 侍女
handmaiden in Polish: Handmaiden
handmaiden in Chinese: 侍女
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