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From Middle English housewif, houswyf, huswijf, equivalent to house +‎ wife. Replaced earlier Middle English hussif (Modern English hussy), which is a doublet. Cognate literally with rare German Hausweib.


  • (UK, US) IPA(key): /ˈhaʊs.waɪf/
  • (file)


housewife (plural housewives or housewifes) (see notes below about plurals)

  1. (plural "housewives") A woman whose main employment is homemaking, maintaining the upkeep of her home and tending to household affairs; often, such a woman whose sole [unpaid] employment is homemaking.
    Synonym: (archaic) henhussy
    Hypernym: homemaker
    Coordinate term: househusband
    • 2000, Uli Kusch, "Mr. Torture", Helloween, The Dark Ride
      Mr Torture sells pain / To the housewives in Spain / He knows just what they crave / Mr Torture
  2. (plural "housewives") The wife of a householder; the mistress of a family; the female head of a household.
  3. (plural "housewifes") A little case or bag for materials used in sewing, and for other articles of female work.
    Synonym: hussy
    • 1828, JT Smith, Nollekens and His Times, Century Hutchinson 1986, p. 246:
      It was a housewife, containing needles, a bodkin, and thread; ‘and, do you know,’ added he, ‘it was the most useful thing she could have given me, for it lasted all the time I was at Rome to mend my clothes with [] .’
    • 1852, Tom Taylor and Charles Reade, Masks and Faces Act II:
      Woffington's housewife, made by herself, homely to the eye, but holds everything in the world
    • 1997, David L. Phillips, A Soldier's Story, MetroBooks, →ISBN, page 61.
      The "soldier's housewife" was a small sewing kit that was carried to make timely repairs to clothing and equipment.

Derived terms[edit]


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.


housewife (third-person singular simple present housewifes, present participle housewifing, simple past and past participle housewifed)

  1. Alternative form of housewive