Sir Edward Coke, who lived from 1552 to 1634, once explained why the term mortgage comes from the Old French words mort, “dead, " and gage, “pledge. " It seemed to him that it had to do with the doubtfulness of whether or not the mortgagor will pay the debt. If the mortgagor does not, then the land pledged to the mortgagee as security for the debt is taken from him for ever, and so the dead to him upon condition, and if he doth pay the money, then the pledge is dead or void as to the mortgagee.
The term has been in English much longer than the 17th century, being first recorded in Middle English with the form mortgage and the figurative sense “pledge" in a work written before 1393.
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