Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A woman joined to a man in marriage; a female spouse.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A married woman, especially in relation to her spouse.
  • n. The female of a pair of mated animals.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A woman; an adult female; -- now used in literature only in certain compounds and phrases, as alewife, fishwife, goodwife, and the like.
  • n. The lawful consort of a man; a woman who is united to a man in wedlock; a woman who has a husband; a married woman; -- correlative of husband.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To take a wife; marry.
  • n. A woman: now only in rural or provincial use, especially in Scotland, and usually with an adjective, or in composition with a noun, implying a woman of humble position: as, old wives' tales; a fish wife.
  • n. The mistress of a house; a hostess: called more distinctively the goodwife (correlative to goodman) or the housewīfe.
  • n. A woman who is united to a man in the lawful bonds of wedlock; a man's spouse: the correlative of husband.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. a married woman; a man's partner in marriage

Etymologies

Middle English wif, from Old English wīf.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Middle English wif, wiif, wyf, from Old English wīf ("woman, female, lady, wife"), from Proto-Germanic *wīban (“woman, wife”), possibly from Proto-Indo-European *gʰʷí₂bʰ- (“shame, pudenda”) (compare Tocharian A/B kip/kwīpe ("shame, genitals, female pudenda")).[2] Cognate with Scots wife ("wife"), West Frisian wiif ("wife, woman"), North Frisian wüf ("wife, woman"), Dutch wijf ("woman, female"), Low German Wief ("woman, female"), German Weib ("woman, wife, female"), Danish viv ("woman"), Swedish viv ("woman"), Faroese vív ("wife, woman"), Icelandic víf ("woman"). (Wiktionary)

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