Definition from Wiktionary, the free dictionary
Jump to: navigation, search


Etymology 1[edit]

ale +‎ wife


alewife (plural alewives)

  1. (archaic) A woman who keeps an alehouse.

Etymology 2[edit]

a shad species called alewife

Unknown. Possibly from aloof, the Indian name of a fish. See Winthrop on the culture of maize in America, “Phil Trans.” No. 142, p. 1065, and Baddam’s “Memoirs,” vol. ii. p. 131.

Possibly from allowes (a type of shad), from French alose (shad), from Old French, from Late Latin alausa, influenced by Etymology 1 due to large belly of the fish.


alewife (plural alewives)

  1. A migrating North American fish, Alosa pseudoharengus.
    • 2014 April 20, Richard Conniff, “An evolutionary family drama”, in The New York Times[1]:
      Alewives are anadromous fish: Born in freshwater, they spend their lives in the ocean, returning annually to their birthplaces to spawn. Until colonial-era dams cut off their migration, hundreds of thousands of alewives would have come pouring into Rogers Lake [Connecticut, USA] every spring – and into other lakes like it along much of the Eastern Seaboard. Farmers used to apply them to their fields as fertilizer, and all along the coast, river herring festivals celebrated their arrival.
    • 1865, Henry David Thoreau, Cape Cod, Chapter I. "The Shipwreck", page 14.
      I saw in Cohasset, separated from the sea only by a narrow beach, a handsome but shallow lake of some four hundred acres [] , and, after the alewives had passed into it, it had stopped up its outlet, and now the alewives were dying by thousands, and the inhabitants were apprehending a pestilence as the water evaporated.
  2. Any of several species similar in appearance.
Derived terms[edit]


See also[edit]