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huswife (plural huswifes or huswives)

  1. Obsolete form of housewife.
    • c. 1601–1602 (date written), William Shakespeare, “Twelfe Night, or What You Will”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies [] (First Folio), London: [] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, →OCLC, [Act I, scene iii], page 256:
      Then hadſt thou had an excellent head of haire. [] Excellent, it hangs like flax on a diſtaffe: & I hope to ſee a huſwife take thee between her legs, & ſpin it off.
    • 1638, Democritus Junior [pseudonym; Robert Burton], “Symptomes of Iealousie, Fear, Sorrow, Suspition, Strange Actions, Gestures, Outrages, Locking Up, Oathes, Trials, Lawes, &c.”, in The Anatomy of Melancholy. [], 5th edition, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Printed [by Robert Young, Miles Flesher, and Leonard Lichfield and William Turner] for Henry Cripps, →OCLC, partition 3, section 3, member 2, subsection 1, page 610:
      He cals her on a ſudden, all to naught; ſhe is a ſtrumpet, a light huswife, a bitch, an arrant whore.
    • 1811, [Jane Austen], chapter II, in Sense and Sensibility [], volume III, London: [] C[harles] Roworth, [], and published by T[homas] Egerton, [], →OCLC, page 46:
      And for my part, I was all in a fright for fear your sister should ask us for the huswifes she had gave us a day or two before; but however, nothing was said about them, and I took care to keep mine out of sight.

Usage notes[edit]

  • In the 18th and early 19th centuries, this spelling and the corresponding pronunciations /ˈhʌzwaɪf/, /ˈhʌz(w)ɪf/ increasingly became restricted to the "hussy" and "sewing bag" senses of housewife. Both hussy and the pronunciation /ˈhʌzɪf/ for "sewing bag" are modern survivals of this.


huswife (third-person singular simple present huswifes, present participle huswifing, simple past and past participle huswifed)

  1. Obsolete form of housewive.

Middle English[edit]



  1. Alternative form of houswyf