For most of history, the subordination of wives to husbands was enforced by law and custom.
wives leave husbands, the public condemns the cheating—and, inevitably, six months later, we learn about another scandal.
wives of Henry VIII lost their heads for their failure to produce them.
Margene has often seemed the most immature of Bill's three wives, little more than a child herself.
Nor were they expected to go out into the world and seek their fortunes, other than as wives.
Again we ask, Which wives and which childrenthe British or the Indian?
All the hombres and their wives and the 'rough-necks' and their wives and the Indians.
Herds of wives squatted by companies on the gravel, softly chatting.
Pen and Jane were not finding the farmers' wives easy to influence.
Because your friends at Brooks's kiss their wives' friends, therefore you are to do so.
Old English wif "woman," from Proto-Germanic *wiban (cf. Old Saxon, Old Frisian wif, Old Norse vif, Danish and Swedish viv, Middle Dutch, Dutch wijf, Old High German wib, German Weib), of uncertain origin. Dutch wijf now means, in slang, "girl, babe," having softened somewhat from earlier sense of "bitch."
Some proposed PIE roots include *weip- "to twist, turn, wrap," perhaps with sense of "veiled person" (see vibrate); or *ghwibh-, a proposed root meaning "shame," also "pudenda," but the only examples of it are wife and Tocharian (a lost IE language of central Asia) kwipe, kip "female pudenda."
The modern sense of "female spouse" began as a specialized sense in Old English; the general sense of "woman" is preserved in midwife, old wives' tale, etc. Middle English sense of "mistress of a household" survives in housewife; and later restricted sense of "tradeswoman of humble rank" in fishwife. Wife-swapping is attested from 1954.