deghia (OSw) deghje (ODan) deigja (ON) noun

Literally, ‘dough maker’. This derivation is reflected in similar words in other Germanic languages (Hellquist) and the English word ‘lady’ has a similar derivation.

Her function in the household seems to be the female equivalent of a bryti (q.v.) or overseer. It was a person who was herself a slave or serf, but who had the responsibility for the other slaves or serfs in the household and who had the confidence of the householder and might even be in partnership with them. In GuL she was the highest-ranked of the female slaves. With the abolition of slavery, the role of the bryti became that of a steward of a household or estate. In Norway, deigja seems, in certain circumstances, to have been the designation used for the housekeeper (perhaps the best description of this female role) and possibly, for the concubine of a priest.

female steward OSw ÄVgL Äb

housekeeper ODan ESjL 3
ONorw FrL Kvb 21
ONorw GuL Mhb
OSw SdmL Tjdb
OSw VmL Mb

Brink 2005; Hellquist [1948] 1964, s.v. deja; KLNM s.v.v. bryde, kvinnearbeid, slegfred, tyende; ODEE 1986, s.v. lady; Schlyter 1877, s.v. deghia; SL UL, 129 note 163; SL VmL, 103 note 209a

  • ‘deghia’. A Lexicon of Medieval Nordic Law.