a woman who holds some title or property from her deceased husband, especially the widow of a king, duke, etc. (often used as an additional title to differentiate her from the wife of the present king, duke, etc.): a queen dowager; an empress dowager.
an elderly woman of stately dignity, especially one of elevated social position: a wealthy dowager.
noting, pertaining to, or characteristic of a dowager: the dowager duchess; to prefer a dowager style of dress.

1520–30; < Middle French douag(i)ere, equivalent to douage dower (see endow, -age) + -iere, feminine of -ier -ier2

dowagerism, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
dowager (ˈdaʊədʒə)
1.  a.  a widow possessing property or a title obtained from her husband
 b.  (as modifier): the dowager duchess
2.  a wealthy or dignified elderly woman
[C16: from Old French douagiere, from douagedower]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin & History

1530, from M.Fr. douagere "pertaining to a dower," from douage "dower," from douer "endow," from L. dotare, from dos (gen. dotis) "dowry" (see dowry).
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Example sentences
The long, layered dowager necklaces of last fall are still holding strong, but taking on new incarnations.
Time for the dowager to hand over real powers to the frustrated princeling.
Or, in the case of its original guesthouses, the empress dowager.
Yellow silk was worn only by the emperor, empress, or empress dowager.
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