Glossary of Women’s Words

Glossary of Women’s Words

You may find women referred to in old documents using these terms.

Administratrix: a woman assigned by the court to administer an estate where there is no valid will
Bondmaid: a female slave or indentured servant

Concubine: a woman who lives with a man to whom she is not married

Consort: companion; term for when the woman predeceased her husband
Dowager: a widow with a title or rank (the queen dowager) or property from her husband

Dower: a legal provision for a woman’s support and that of her children after her husband’s death; typically one-third of the husband’s property; also known as “widow’s thirds”

Dowry: property the bride brings to her marriage

Executrix: the woman named in a will to distribute the estate
Goodwife: the wife or household mistress 
Goody: a woman or housewife, especially an older woman 
Grass widow: a woman whose husband had deserted her; also used to refer to a woman who has illegitimate children or to a discarded common-law wife
Now wife: in a will, refers to the current wife (implying there was a previous wife)

Relict: a widow
Spinster: an unmarried woman regarded as beyond the age of marriage
Testatrix: a woman who leaves a valid will
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