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A legal payment of varying amount according to the status of a person, to be paid by him as a due or fine, or to be received by him or on his account for injury done to him,
to be paid as a due
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  • Medemra þegna heregeata: hors and his gerǽda and his wǽpn oððe (in L. H., et suum hal[s]fang, 559, 7) his healsfang (halsfangc, v. l.) on

    • Wessexan, Ll. Lbmn. 358, 14
    • .
to be paid as a penalty
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  • Gif for godbótan feohbót áríseð, swá swá wise woroldwitan tó steóre gesettan, ꝥ gebyreð . . . for woroldsteóran tó godcundan neódan, hwílum be wíte, hwílum be wergylde, hwílum be halsfange.

    • Ll. Lbmn. 258, § 51.
where it is the heals-fang of the payer
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  • Gif fríman an ðane forbodenan tíman [wyrce], sió hé healsfange scyldig . . . Gif ceorl búton wífes wísdóme deóflum gelde, hé sié ealra his ǽhtan scyldig and healsfange. Gif bútwú deóflum geldaþ, sión hió healsfange scyldigo and ealra ǽhtan . . . Gif mon his heówum in fæsten flǽsc gefe, frigne ge þeówne halsfange álýse.

    • Ll. Lbmn. 13, 11-21.
  • Gyf freóman freólsdæge wyrce, þonne gebéte ꝥ mid his halsfange (decem solidos persoluat, Inst. Cnut.),

    • 342, 26
    • .
  • Gyf hláford his þeówan freólsdæge nýde tó weorce . . . gylde lahslit se hláford mid Denum, wíte mid Englum (dominus det halsfang, Inst. Cnut.),

    • 345, 1
    • .
  • Gyf hwá on leásre gewitnesse openlíce stande . . . gylde hé þám cingce oððe landrícan be healsfange (persoluat regi aut domino terre x solidos, quod Dam uocant halsfang, Inst. Cnut.),

    • 338, 24
    • .
  • Reddat regi . . . helsfang,

    • 557, 10
    • .
where it is the healsfang of the injured person
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  • Gif man æt unlagum man bewǽpnige, forgilde hine be halsfange (x sol. ei emendet, Inst. Cnut.; halsfangium eius emendet,

    • 606, 12
    • );

    gif hine man gebinde, forgilde be healfan were,

    • 350, 15
    • .
It formed the first part of the compensation (wer) paid to the friends of a slain person, and it is in this connection that most detail is given, the amount, time of payment, and recipients of the healsfang being stated:
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  • Twelfhyndes mannes wer is twelf hund scyllinga . . . Gif man ofslægen weorðe, gylde hine man swá hé geboren sý. And riht is ðæt se slaga . . . finde wærborh . . . þonne þæt gedón sý, ðonne rǽre man cyninges munde . . . Of ðǽm dæge on .xxi. nihtan gylde man LXX. scłł, tó healsfange æt twelfhyndum were. Healsfang gebyreð bearnum, bróðrum and fæderan; ne gebyreð nánum mǽge ðæt feoh búte ðám ðe sý binnan cneówe. Of ðám dæge ðe ðæt healsfang ágolden sý on .xxi. nihtan gylde man ðá manbóte . . .

    • 392, 3-23
    • :
    • 190, 10
    • .
Further details concerning the healsfang in the case of the ceorl may be gained from the laws of Henry I. which show that the healsfang was part of the wer: In omni weregildo debet halsfang primo reddi, sicut were modus erit . . . Qui natus sit ad iiii. libras [= twihindus homo] . . . halsfang eius sunt v marc̃, que faciunt xii. sol, et vi. den. Si quis ad iiii. l ibras persoluendus occidatur, et ad id res ueniat, ut precio natalis eius componendus sit, primo debent reddi xii. sol. et vi. den. et in wera numerari. Reddantur uero patri uel filio uel fratri . . . et ipsi diuidant inter se. A die qua wera uadiata est in xxi diem debet halsfang reddi, et hoc indiuisum habeant a ceteris . . . reddatur vii sol. et vi dęn. ad expletionem xx sol. (i. e. the healsfang ( = 12s. 6d. ) + 7s. 6d. made the first pound) [Then three successive pounds were to be paid, making four pounds in all, the amount of the slain man's wer ],
  • 581, 8-582, 17
  • .
According to the laws of William I the widow of a slain man shared (or received) the healsfang,
  • 498, 499, § 9
  • .
Heals-fang means literally the seizing by the neck or throat (collicipium is the rendering of the word in the old Latin version of Cnut's Laws, Ll. Lbmn. 339, 24: 343, 25).
Cf. the passage in Beowulf, where in the description of such an action heals and fón are used: Fýrdraca . . . rǽsde on þone rófan, . . . heals ealne ymbeféng biteran bánum, 2691. Its formation may be compared with that of feax-fang (an action to which the law attached a penalty), a word which with the similar berd-fang is found in the Frisian laws. In these laws, too, is mentioned the offence of seizing by the hals (Huaso orem grypt oen syn hals, dat di adema hor ut ner in mey), to which the term heals-fang might very well have been applied in Old English. As in the Old English legal phraseology the word which denotes an offence denotes also the fine which is to be paid for that offence, healsfang in the first instance might have denoted the action, then the fine paid for the assault, and then, like wergild, have come to be regarded as a standard for fines in the case of other offences (cf. first passage under 2. above Hwílum be wergylde, hwílum be halsfange). And it may be noted that in two of the instances where a fine is determined by healsfang the offences involve violence, unlawful disarming, and manslaughter.
Halsfang occurs in Frisian law, but its meaning is not defined. Richthofen explains it as a 'Menschen- oder Mädchen-raub'.
The word occurs in Icelandic, as well as a verb háls-fengja, meaning respectively an embrace and to embrace.
Full form


  • heals-fang,