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noun, plural ale·wives.
  1. a North American fish, Alosa pseudoharengus, resembling a small shad.

Origin of alewife1

1625–35, Americanism; earlier allowes, perhaps influenced by alewife2, probably < French alose shad < Gallo-Latin alausa


noun, plural ale·wives.
  1. a woman who owns or operates an alehouse.

Origin of alewife2

Middle English word dating back to 1350–1400; see origin at ale, wife
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for alewife

Historical Examples

  • There be espiers set in every lane and the highway, said the alewife.

    Long Will

    Florence Converse

  • Joan (passim), a generic name for an alewife, strumpet, and the like: see Doctour Double Ale and next entry.

  • Calote had caught the withered bough when it fell, and made off with it under the alewife's very nose.

    Long Will

    Florence Converse

  • They went into the tavern and the alewife set her best brew before them, and presently slipped out to seek her gossips.

    Long Will

    Florence Converse

  • Bunch (Mother), an alewife, mentioned by Dekker in his drama called Satiromastix .

British Dictionary definitions for alewife


noun plural -wives
  1. a North American fish, Pomolobus pseudoharengus, similar to the herring Clupea harengus: family Clupeidae (herrings)

Word Origin

C19: perhaps an alteration (through influence of alewife, that is, a large rotund woman, alluding to the fish's shape) of French alose shad
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for alewife


herring-like fish of North America, 1630s, named from the word for female tavern keepers (late 14c.), from ale + wife; the fish so called in reference to its large abdomen.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

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