Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

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

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun A cover or covering.
  • noun A covert or shelter; covering; protection; disguise; pretense.
  • noun 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.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun Covering; shelter; defense; hiding.
  • noun (Law) 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 Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun law 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.
  • noun Alternative spelling of couverture.
  • noun Shelter, hiding place.

Etymologies

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

[Middle English, from Old French, from covert, covered; see covert.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Middle English, from Old French coverture, from covrir ("to cover")

Examples

  • C: Yes, it comes from common law, called coverture, describing marital roles and duties.

    AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed

  • C: Yes, it comes from common law, called coverture, describing marital roles and duties.

    AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed

  • The doctrine of "coverture," which subsumed wives into their husbands 'citizenship, eroded during the 19th century, and (white or non-Southern) women became voting citizens in 1919.

    Philip N. Cohen: Throwing Stones at Afghanistan's Marital Rape Law

  • The doctrine of "coverture," which subsumed wives into their husbands 'citizenship, eroded during the 19th century, and (white or non-Southern) women became voting citizens in 1919.

    The Full Feed from HuffingtonPost.com

  • The doctrine of "coverture," which subsumed wives into their husbands 'citizenship, eroded during the 19th century, and (white or non-Southern) women became voting citizens in 1919.

    The Full Feed from HuffingtonPost.com

  • This doctrine became a way to reconcile the increasing sense that men and women really were equals thanks mostly to the revolution in marriage that made it based on consent and love along with the spread of classical liberal ideas about the inherent rights of individuals with the objective circumstances of the 19th century where men had legal advantages such as coverture that enabled them to control economic resources, as well as having the franchise, which women lacked.

    The Austrian Economists:

  • By the law as it stands, if Mr Norton can evade his covenant (as he does, by stating that it is null because it was a contract with me, and "a man cannot contract with his own wife") he can defraud the creditor; for if a creditor sues me, I have only to plead 'coverture' (plead that I am a married woman), and the creditor who could not recover against Mr Norton is equally unable to recover against me.

    English Laws for Women in the Nineteenth Century

  • This concept of “coverture” meant that a husband not only legally owned every piece of property in his family but also was, according to law and American culture, incapable of raping his wife.

    A Renegade History of the United States

  • Once I read a news article that was just so blatantly biased in favor of the view that 19th century coverture laws were unjust.

    The Volokh Conspiracy » CNN Profiles Lawyers in Same-Sex Marriage Case

  • There was also the issue of coverture, or the belief that a woman's civil existence is erased the moment she marries.

    Arlene M. Roberts: Committed: An Immigration Love Story

Comments

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  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • "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

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

    March 3, 2011

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

    March 3, 2011

  • another word for étouffée?

    March 4, 2011