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

  • n. A covering; a shelter.
  • n. The state of being concealed; disguise.
  • n. Law The status of a married woman under common law.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A common law doctrine developed in England during the Middle Ages, whereby a woman's legal existence, upon marriage, was subsumed by that of her husband, particularly with regard to ownership of property and protection.
  • n. Alternative spelling of couverture.
  • n. Shelter, hiding place.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. Covering; shelter; defense; hiding.
  • n. The condition of a woman during marriage, because she is considered under the cover, influence, power, and protection of her husband, and therefore called a feme covert, or femme couverte.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A cover or covering.
  • n. A covert or shelter; covering; protection; disguise; pretense.
  • n. Specifically, in law, the status of a married woman considered as under the cover or power of her husband, and therefore called a feme covert.


Middle English, from Old French, from covert, covered; see covert.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Middle English, from Old French coverture, from covrir ("to cover") (Wiktionary)



Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.

  • another word for étouffée?

    March 4, 2011

  • Ah--there it is. See ketchup couverture.

    March 3, 2011

  • Didn't the frog have something about ketchup coverture?

    March 3, 2011

  • "When drums and trumpets shall
    I' the field prove flatterers, let courts and cities be
    Made all of false-fac'd soothing.
    When steel grows soft as the parasite's silk,
    Let him be made a coverture for the wars."
    - William Shakespeare, 'The Tragedy of Coriolanus'.

    August 28, 2009

  • I think we should go back to this word, don't you? It sounds so much more elegant. Except in that married life sense, that is. ;-)

    January 3, 2008

  • Reminds me of Italian copertura with similar meanings. In modern times you hear talk of the copertura of a mobile phone network, which I think shows the link between coverture and the word which shoved it into the background, coverage.

    January 3, 2008

  • According to the OED:

    Law. The condition or position of a woman during her married life, when she is by law under the authority and protection of her husband. Also in phr. under coverture (lit. and fig.).

    But that is definition 9. The earlier ones are more prosaic:

    Anything used to cover. Formerly used of the cover or lid of a cup or dish; the cover of a book; the cover of a letter; now only in the general and usually collective sense of ‘covering’.

    And the earliest usage: A bed-cover, coverlet, or quilt. Obs.

    January 3, 2008