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wife-in-law (plural wives-in-law)

  1. A wife in law only, such as one who has abandoned her husband
  2. A wife who provides domestic or social support, but not love or affection
  3. Another wife of one's husband. Typically used in cases of divorce and subsequent remarriage.
    • 1922, Felix Emmanuel Schelling, Appraisements and asperities as to some contemporary writers, page 116-117:
      Instead she arranges, offhand, a nice little farewell dinner for her husband that was and the lady, Flora, who is to be her successor three months hence. [] Flora is generously constrained to leave the sometime-husband and wife to talk the matter over. "Are we not wives-in-law?" says Madame. And the upshot is that although Flora interrupts them by phone from her flat below several times until the receiver is left off, Madame easily wins back her husband. Indeed, so complete is their absorption that they have forgotten completely the trifling circumstance that they are no longer man and wife.
    • 2002, John Hanson Mitchell, The Wildest Place on Earth: Italian Gardens and the Invention of Wilderness, page 38:
      the collection of people who would gather in either of the two houses for Christmas and Thanksgiving, and sometimes again in summer. This collection involved former mothers-in-law, former husbands, ex-wives of former husbands, and doddering uncles from distant marriages, as well as, of course, the various and sundry children and dogs (dogs-in-law as one family member calls them) of the now recombined families. In the process, I believe, we were responsible for the creation of a new American family relative—the wife-in-law, or the husband-in-law.
    • 1908, George Barr McCutcheon, Harrison Fisher, The Man from Brodney's, page 148:
      "Your plan provides Browne with two charming wives and gives me but one. [] "
      "But, my lord," said Saunders, "doesn't the plan give Lady Deppingham two husbands? It's quite a fair division."
      "It would make Lord Deppingham my husband-in-law, I imagine," said Drusilla quaintly. "I've always had a horror of husbands-in-law."
      "And you would be my wife-in-law," supplemented Lady Agnes. "How interesting!"
    • 1994, Philip Leroy Kilbride, Plural marriage for our times: a reinvented option?, page 22:
      Many husbands, like the wives-in-law themselves, were deeply divided and upset over a family life that could no longer be defined as a single unit.


  • co-wife (used in cases of polygamy)

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