AskDefine | Define dowager

Dictionary Definition

dowager n : a widow holding property received from her deceased husband

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. A widow holding property or title derived from her late husband.
  2. Any lady of dignified bearing.

Extensive Definition

A dowager is a widow who holds a title or property, or dower, derived from her deceased husband. As an adjective, "Dowager" usually appears in association with monarchical and aristocratic titles.
In loose popular usage, dowager as a stand-alone noun may refer to any elderly woman, especially one who is wealthy or behaves with dignity.

Use in the United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, the widow of a peer may continue to use the style she had during her husband's lifetime, e.g. "Countess of Loamshire", provided that his successor, if any, has no wife to bear the plain title. Otherwise she more properly prefixes either her forename or the word Dowager, e.g. "Jane, Countess of Loamshire" or "Dowager Countess of Loamshire". (In any case she would continue to be called "Lady Loamshire".)

Monarchical dowagers

China recognized Empress dowagers and Grand empress dowagers.
Queen Dowager is used in the United Kingdom and several other countries.
In the fallen Russian imperial family, the term "Dowager Empress" was used to describe the wife of a deceased Tsar.


Following the annulment of her marriage to King Henry VIII of England, Catherine of Aragon was styled either "Princess Dowager of Wales" or "Dowager Princess of Wales" in consequence of her previous marriage (1501) to Henry's older brother, Arthur, Prince of Wales (died 1502).
Following the death of Edward John Spencer, 8th Earl Spencer in 1992, his widow, Raine, ceased to use the style Countess Spencer, becoming Raine, Dowager Countess Spencer. Her stepdaughter-in-law, Victoria, became Countess Spencer.
In the 1997 movie Anastasia, the term is said many times to address the Dowager Empress Marie, Anastasia's grandmother.
In the Princess Diaries books Mia's grandmother is the Dowager Princess of Genovia, although she is simply known as "the Queen" in the films.
dowager in French: Douairière
dowager in Dutch: Douairière

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Eve, Frau, abbess, beldam, chatelaine, crone, dame, daughter of Eve, distaff, domina, donna, femme, first lady, frow, frump, gentlewoman, girl, goodwife, governess, grandam, grande dame, grandmother, granny, great lady, hag, homemaker, housewife, lady, lass, madam, matriarch, matron, milady, mistress, mother superior, old battle-ax, old dame, old girl, old granny, old lady, old trot, old wife, old woman, queen dowager, relict, squaw, trot, vrouw, wahine, war-horse, weaker vessel, widow, widow woman, widower, widowman, witch, woman
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