Well, let's not cut to the chase too quickly. It occurs to me that someone might drop by here hoping for a clue about what a mortgage actually is, so let me attempt to give a clear, simple definition.
I suppose to put it most simply, a mortgage is when you buy a home--or other property--and use that property as collateral for a loan which gives you the necessary funds up front. I was trying to discover if there were other kinds of things that you would mortgage, and apparently there is such a thing as a boat mortgage, and an RV mortgage, but not a car mortgage. A 'car mortgage' is covered under the term 'secured transaction', with the car acting as collateral in the same way a house would. Interestingly, in England the same sort of thing is called a chattel mortgage, chattel in this case meaning simply movable property. Seems like an RV would fall under this definition, but never mind.
|Sir Edward Coke|
As Peter suspected, the 'mort' in mortgage does refer to death. A mortgage is more literally a 'dead pledge'. The idea, as I've now read it in various places is that Sir Edward Coke, reputedly the greatest jurist of the Elizabethan and Jacobean era, thought the term came about because the payment of the debt was so much in doubt. If the borrower fails to pay the debt, he must lose the property and so it is dead to him forever. And if he does pay, then the debt is dead. Well, I defer to the greater mind here, but this seems to be the nature of all loans with collateral, so I'm not sure this entirely explains it.
The word came to England from France as morage, and the 't' was added back in under influence from Latin, which is the kind of shift I find interesting. Grammarphobia has a fairly extensive article on all this and they maintain that the word was not originally used in English in a legal sense, but in a more general way of seeking a benefit at the risk of loss. This would have been in the 1300s. The legal sense doesn't come into it until the late 14th century, or even the 15th, depending on where you're reading.
The 'gage' ending of the word is also interesting. Although the word comes to English from French, the French had apparently borrowed gage from the Germanic languages. There is a prehistoric reconstruction of a word wadja which apparently gives us not just gage, but also 'wage' and 'wed'. All have to do with types of pledges.
The French did not keep the word morage, however, but replaced it with hypothèque--I have no idea why. Perhaps it came to sound too British. Some interesting facts about the French came up in this search. Modern French also has the cognate gages, but this refers to the wages of a domestic worker, not to be confused with the earnings of a university professor (traitement), a workman (paye, salaire), a soldier (solde), and the more general récompense and prix.
Odd, as, presumably, they're all paid with the same money.