Money, goods, or estate that a woman brings to her husband in marriage. The dowry has a long history in Europe, South Asia, Africa, and other parts of the world. Some of its basic functions are to protect the wife against ill treatment by her husband, since a dowry can be a conditional gift; to help the husband discharge the responsibilities of marriage, since the dowry makes it possible for the young man to establish a household; to provide the wife with support in case of her husband's death; and to compensate the groom's kin for their payment of bridewealth. In Europe, the dowry served to build the power and wealth of great families and played a role in the politics of grand alliance through marriage. The giving of a dowry more or less disappeared in Europe in the 19th and 20th centuries. The practice grew, however, in South Asia. In some cases, delayed or insufficient dowry made some young wives the victims of murder by their husbands or in-laws, a practice known as bride burning or dowry death.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
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