Tuesday, September 2, 2008

dowry: Definition from Answers.com

Money and Personal Property that a wife brings to her husband in marriage.

Money, goods, or estate that a woman brings to her husband in marriage. The dowry has a long history in Europe, South Asia, Africa, and other parts of the world. Some of its basic functions are to protect the wife against ill treatment by her husband, since a dowry can be a conditional gift; to help the husband discharge the responsibilities of marriage, since the dowry makes it possible for the young man to establish a household; to provide the wife with support in case of her husband's death; and to compensate the groom's kin for their payment of bridewealth. In Europe, the dowry served to build the power and wealth of great families and played a role in the politics of grand alliance through marriage. The giving of a dowry more or less disappeared in Europe in the 19th and 20th centuries. The practice grew, however, in South Asia. In some cases, delayed or insufficient dowry made some young wives the victims of murder by their husbands or in-laws, a practice known as "bride burning" or "dowry death."
  1. Money or property brought by a bride to her husband at marriage. Also called dower.
  2. A sum of money required of a postulant at a convent.
  3. A natural endowment or gift; a talent.
  4. Archaic. See dower (sense 1).

(dou'rē) , the property that a woman brings to her husband at the time of the marriage. The dowry apparently originated in the giving of a marriage gift by the family of the bridegroom to the bride and the bestowal of money upon the bride by her parents. It has been a well-established institution among the propertied classes of various lands and times, e.g., in ancient Greece and Rome, India, medieval Europe, and modern continental countries. Generally the husband has been compelled to return the dowry in case of divorce or the death of the wife when still childless. One purpose of the dowry was to provide support for the wife on the husband's death, and thus it was related remotely to the rights of dower. In civil-law countries the dowry is an important form of property. In England and the United States (except for Louisiana), the dowry system is not recognized as law.

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