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[hous-wahyf or, usually, huhz-if for 2] /ˈhaʊsˌwaɪf or, usually, ˈhʌz ɪf for 2/
noun, plural housewives
[hous-wahyvz] /ˈhaʊsˌwaɪvz/ (Show IPA)
Sometimes Offensive. a married woman who manages her own household, especially as her principal occupation.
British. a sewing box; a small case or box for needles, thread, etc.
verb (used with or without object), housewifed, housewifing.
Archaic. to manage with efficiency and economy, as a household.
Origin of housewife
1175-1225; Middle English hus(e)wif. See house, wife
Can be confused
homemaker, housewife (see usage note at the current entry)
Usage note
Most people, married or unmarried, find the term housewife perfectly acceptable. But it is sometimes perceived as insulting, perhaps because it implies a lowly status (“She’s just a housewife”) or because it defines an occupation in terms of a woman's relation to a man. Homemaker is a fairly common substitute. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for housewife
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • In sooth, I would yet do it, if he would make it up with the housewife.

    The Armourer's Prentices Charlotte M. Yonge
  • A test that can be applied by the housewife is illustrated in Fig. 4.

    Woman's Institute Library of Cookery, Vol. 5 Woman's Institute of Domestic Arts and Sciences
  • He had corresponded with his sweetheart; should he find her in the mother and housewife?

    Married August Strindberg
  • A careful study of this table will be profitable to the housewife.

    Woman's Institute Library of Cookery, Vol. 1 Woman's Institute of Domestic Arts and Sciences
  • Also a "housewife" has been given to every man, containing all things necessary for patching, darning, and mending.

    With our Fighting Men William E. Sellers
British Dictionary definitions for housewife


noun (pl) -wives
a woman, typically a married woman, who keeps house, usually without having paid employment
(mainly Brit) Also called hussy, huswife (ˈhʌzɪf). a small sewing kit issued to soldiers
Derived Forms
housewifery (ˈhaʊsˌwɪfərɪ; -ˌwɪfrɪ) noun
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for housewife

early 13c., husewif, "woman, usually married, in charge of a family or household" (cf. husebonde; see husband), from huse "house" (see house (n.)) + wif "woman" (see wife). Also see hussy. Related: Housewifely.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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