A wife is a female lifetime partner in a continuing marital relationship. A wife may also be referred to as a spouse. The term continues to be applied to a woman who has separated from her husband and ceases to be applied to such a woman only when her marriage has come to an end following a legally recognised divorce or the death of her spouse. The rights and obligations of the wife in relation to her husband and others, and her status in the community and in law, varies between cultures and has varied over time. In a heterosexual relationship, a woman's spouse is her husband.
The term is most commonly applied to a woman in a legally sanctioned marriage, and not to a woman in another cohabitation relationship such as a concubine, mistress etc. However, a woman in a so-called common law marriage may describe herself as a common law wife, de facto wife, or simply a wife; but sometimes the female is described as "girlfriend" or "partner". Those seeking to advance gender neutrality may refer to both marriage partners as "spouses", and many countries are rewording their statute law by replacing "wife" and "husband" with "spouse". Also, in a polygamous marriage, each woman is described as a wife.
Famous quotes containing the word wife:
“The only solid and lasting peace between a man and his wife is, doubtless, a separation.”
—Philip Dormer Stanhope, 4th Earl Chesterfield (16941773)
“When my old wife lived, upon
This day she was both pantler, butler, cook,
Both dame and servant, welcomed all, served all,
Would sing her song and dance her turn, now here
At upper end othe table, now ithe middle,
On his shoulder, and his, her face afire
With labor, and the thing she took to quench it
She would to each one sip.”
—William Shakespeare (15641616)
“For every nineteenth-century middle-class family that protected its wife and child within the family circle, there was an Irish or a German girl scrubbing floors in that home, a Welsh boy mining coal to keep the home-baked goodies warm, a black girl doing the family laundry, a black mother and child picking cotton to be made into clothes for the family, and a Jewish or an Italian daughter in a sweatshop making ladies dresses or artificial flowers for the family to purchase.”
—Stephanie Coontz (20th century)