dow·​ry | \ ˈdau̇(-ə)-rē How to pronounce dowry (audio) \
plural dowries

Definition of dowry

1 law : the money, goods, or estate that a woman brings to her husband in marriage cultures in which marriage rarely occurs without dowry or bride-price
2 : a natural talent or gift Beauty should be the dowry of every man and woman, as invariably as sensation; but it is rare.— Ralph Waldo Emerson
3 archaic, law : dower sense 1

Examples of dowry in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The bride is almost always expected to bring with her a sizable dowry. Yashica Dutt, The Atlantic, "Netflix’s Indian Matchmaking and the Shadow of Caste," 1 Aug. 2020 After around a year of healing, her father gave her to a 70-year-old man to be his fifth wife, in exchange for a dowry of three cows. Erika W. Smith,, "How One Kenyan Woman Is Fighting Female Genital Mutilation," 12 Feb. 2020 The novel follows Georgiana Bridgerton, a young woman who finds herself in a difficult position when a suitor abducts her for her dowry. Maureen Lee Lenker,, "Julia Quinn talks First Comes Scandal, hopes coronavirus won't delay Bridgerton series," 21 Apr. 2020 Half of all literate women were sent to them, as many families could afford a dowry only for the eldest daughter. The Economist, "The first “Last Supper” painted by a woman goes on public display," 23 Oct. 2019 In the five years to 2015 over 40,000 Indian women died in rows over dowries. The Economist, "The struggle of Asian women not to be abused," 10 Oct. 2019 In China, the groom’s family is expected to buy a house for the new couple and give the bride’s family a dowry that averages US$20,000. Wei Li, The Conversation, "Matching Vietnamese brides with Chinese men, marriage brokers find good business – and sometimes love," 10 Jan. 2020 Without a dowry to offer suitors, the man worried that his daughters would fall into prostitution. Daniel Burke, CNN, "St. Nicholas: The story behind Santa Claus," 6 Dec. 2019 Singh was brought up believing that girls simply cost their family a dowry before dedicating their energies to their husband. The Economist, "In the ring with India’s most powerful woman," 25 Oct. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'dowry.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of dowry

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 3

History and Etymology for dowry

Middle English dowarie, from Anglo-French, alteration of dower, douaire — more at dower

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Time Traveler for dowry

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The first known use of dowry was in the 14th century

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Last Updated

5 Aug 2020

Cite this Entry

“Dowry.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 7 Aug. 2020.

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More Definitions for dowry


How to pronounce dowry (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of dowry

: money or property that a wife or wife's family gives to her husband when the wife and husband marry in some cultures


dow·​ry | \ ˈdau̇-rē How to pronounce dowry (audio) \
plural dowries

Kids Definition of dowry

: property that in some cultures a woman gives to her husband in marriage

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More from Merriam-Webster on dowry

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for dowry

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with dowry

Spanish Central: Translation of dowry

Nglish: Translation of dowry for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of dowry for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about dowry

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