Definition of dower in English:



  • 1A widow's share for life of her husband's estate.

    [as modifier] ‘a dower house’
    • ‘If either the husband or wife apostasizes, a divorce takes place ipso facto; the wife is entitled to her whole dower but no pronouncement of divorce is necessary.’
    • ‘In England, by the thirteenth century, the generous apportionment of dower to widows in aristocratic society was, it appears, often mirrored in town and countryside lower down the social scale.’
    • ‘The wife may remit the dower or any part thereof in favour of the husband or his heirs.’
    • ‘In 1869 she was awarded by the Supreme Court of Illinois a life interest in one-third of the real estate, which met the requirements of dower rights, and in addition outright possession of one-third of the personal property.’
    • ‘Secondly, the husband shall not be responsible to give the dower if the wife is divorced such that the husband has not touched her or her dower had not been fixed.’
    • ‘In some cases, this involved the dower connected with a widow's previous marriage.’
    • ‘Moreover, she held the dower portion of her husband's lands, primarily made up of Maelienydd and Comot Deuddwr in Wales.’
    • ‘He was still the tenant in 1398; judging from a 1403 feoffment, he may have been holding as a trustee for the dower rights of Gile's widow, Margaret.’
    • ‘Widows were also entitled to a dower right to a third of their husband's land or income derived from the land.’
    • ‘But I do not agree that the guardian of these minors may purchase, in his own name and for his personal benefit, the dower interest of the widow in the lands to which his wards hold the fee.’
    • ‘The only real tradition here is that the groom must give his bride a dower to serve as insurance for her future.’
    • ‘The wife's dower entitled her to one third of the husband's property on his death; curtesy, a similar right of the husband in the wife's property, accrued only if children had been born of the marriage.’
    • ‘The amount of his dower, twelve hundred livres, was much less; one thousand livres were again for both of them, with the sum to which the widow would be entitled from the estate being set at eight hundred livres.’
    • ‘Nor could he sell her right to dower unless she agreed, an enormous limitation because it meant that, without her consent, her dower would operate like a lien on the property.’
    • ‘The mansion may have been spared the worst because only an old widow on her dower was living there, or perhaps Doctor Isaac was tolerated in intolerant times because of his importance to the community.’
    • ‘In no way a husband has been authorized to take back the dower money from his wife in case he divorces her.’
    • ‘The purpose of dower was to prevent the widow's becoming a public charge.’
    • ‘Add to these resources the landed endowments of widows, whether dowers or dowries, and it can be seen that Edward's control over marriage was of key importance for his patronage programme.’
    • ‘Her work is at its best and strongest in her examination of the struggles that the queen experienced after she settled in Le Mans as a widow, both in attempting to secure her dower funds and to keep her household going.’
    • ‘The widow has dower right in her late husband's property, even if she remarries - although the children are not to lose their inheritance as a result of her remarriage.’
    1. 1.1archaic A dowry.
      • ‘Lear, childlike in his petulance, denies Cordelia her dower.’
      • ‘The Pendant discusses the love between the two with Baptista, and they agree on a dower and a marriage.’
      • ‘He would not provide dowers for his three daughters - Henrietta, Mary, and Kate.’


[WITH OBJECT]archaic
  • Give a dowry to.

    ‘he was so short of money that he could not even dower his sister’
    • ‘But, as my father eagerly points out, he has a large estate for sons and plenty of money to dower daughters with.’
    • ‘Extra daughters were sent off to live in respectable refinement at convents, so that the family would not have to dower them as lavishly and divide the family patrimony.’
    • ‘Muslim women need to be educated about their right to dower, which is a unique characteristics of Muslim society.’
    • ‘The barber charged me enough to dower two of his daughters.’


Late Middle English: from Old French douaire, from medieval Latin dotarium, from Latin dotare endow, from dos, dot- dowry; related to dare give.