I spoke at a Sheva Brachos yesterday, and one of the things I talked about is the word "Nisu'in." נישואין means marriage; it is the second stage of the Eirusin and Nisu'in marriage process, and it finalizes the marriage. I want to know the meaning of the word itself.
I mentioned this question at the table Friday night, and Someone answered that it means "to become burdened," from רחיים בצווארו, a millstone around the neck, an idiomatic expression used in the Gemara to refer to the responsibilities of marriage. This Person meant that נישואין/marriage is like שאת וספחת by Metzora, two types of skin growths that symptomize Leprosy. I asked This Person which of the parties is thus burdened, and she answered "The one who was chased." Very funny, but I don't think that's the only answer, at least I hope not, and it's certainly not something you want to hear from one of your parents. (Full disclosure: see Yevamos 63b: אשה רעה צרעת לבעלה מאי תקנתיה יגרשנה ויתרפא מצרעתו)
אירושין, which is spelled ארוסין in the literature, Eirusin, is easier. It's pretty obvious that Eirusin comes from the same shoresh as ארשת שפתיו, which means speech or words; so, eirusin means to give your word, to agree or to pledge to marry. The agreement is made binding through the kinyan, and the woman becomes prohibited to all other men, but the essence is the promise. The word is identical with the English 'Troth,' which means to promise or to pledge. Eirusin=betrothal. Simple. But what does Nesuin mean? If you'll look around on the web, you'll see hundreds of people that say it means 'elevation.' If anything, that's a raya that it doesn't mean that. One clown makes an assertion, puts it on a website, and every lazy ignoramus assumes it's correct. For a drasha, it's ok-- כל אדם שאין לו אשה שרוי בלא שמחה בלא ברכה בלא טובה... במערבא אמרי בלא תורה"—“ (Yevamos 62b.) Or maybe it means the elevation of simcha. But for pshat, I highly doubt it.
In any case, the question is particularly timely, because in the three parshios, Ki Sisa, Vayakhel, and Pikudei, we find the word used remarkably often, and in many different ways--
אשר נשא לבן אותנה בחכמה,
Please note that in musaf of Yom Tov, we also says "והשיאנו ה' אלוקינו את ברכת מועדיך." And there's
וַיִּשָּׂא מַשְׂאֹת מֵאֵת פָּנָיו אֲלֵהֶם וַתֵּרֶב מַשְׂאַת בִּנְיָמִן מִמַּשְׂאֹת כֻּלָּם where it means a gift,
and ישא מדברותיו,
and הֲלוֹא אִם תֵּיטִיב שְׂאֵת
and שאת וספחת
and others. So, please tell me what you think it means in the context of getting married. And please, I already did the drushy thing (Marriage is a gift (מַשְׂאַת) from the Chasan to the Kalah, and from the Kalah to the Chasan, and from Hashem to both of them; Marriage is an opportunity to elevate (כִּי תִשָּׂא) yourself by learning to love another person more than yourself; Marriage is when you take on responsibility for a family; Marriage is when you have to listen to your heart (נְשָׂאוֹ לִבּוֹ) as well as your mind; חתן דומה למלך and the word נישואין comes from נְּשִׂאִים because the Chasan and Kallah become a king and a queen (נְּשִׂאִים), and so on). I'm looking for something rational.
In a salute to ingenuity, and since it's still Adar, let me point out that Devora in the comments suggested that nisuin is related to נסיון, nisayon, a test. Every marriage is a test. Rabbi Dr. SMS suggested in a conversation that Eirusin is related to ארס, eres, poison. Also, see great unknown's law- "The Conservation of Golomus" based on the Gemara in Sanhedrin. These are people who, when I ask why we learn the dinim of kidushin from the dinim of buying a plot of land for a grave, don't understand what the kashe is.
AFTER THE UPDATES, YOU WILL FIND AN CONCISE VERSION OF THE COMMENTS THAT CAME IN ON THIS TOPIC. I ATTEMPTED TO EDIT THEM FOR LOGICAL FLOW. THESE COMMENTS ARE HEREWITH MADE A PART OF THIS POST, AND WILL IMPROVE YOUR UNDERSTANDING OF THE TWO UPDATES THAT PRECEDE THE EDITED COMMENTS.
1. Eli points out that the roots with the shin smalis and the shin yemanis have completely different meanings, so it's not likely that nisu'in would be pronounced with a smalis if it came from Nasha; it is more likely that the Midrash is homiletics, not etymology.
2. More comments that came in on the topic (though I would prefer getting them in the comment section, I am happy to hear from you through any media):
a. The Gemara in Sanhedrin 31b uses the root to mean "compel."
b. A connection to the expression "נושא בעול עם חבירו", which means to accept their burdens and duties as if they were your own.
LKWD GUY sent me a little note, to look at Rashi Sotah top of 9b. What do you know! Another Rashi I forgot! (And thank you Eli, for twisting the knife by pointing out that Rashi says exactly the same thing on top of Shabbos 146a. I wonder what life would be like if I had a good memory.)
I learned of a Tiferes Yisrael in Yevamos 7th perek comment #7 who asks this question, and, in Drush mode, suggests many of the answers that appear here, including some that I made fun of, and additional explanations as well. See there.
AND here are the edited comments.