a sexually promiscuous woman, especially a prostitute or a woman who commits adultery.
a symbol of pagan Rome or, opprobriously, of the church of Rome. Rev. 17:1–6.
Origin of scarlet woman
First recorded in 1810–20
Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019
British Dictionary definitions for scarlet woman
New Testament a sinful woman described in Revelation 17, interpreted as a figure either of pagan Rome or of the Roman Catholic Church regarded as typifying vice overlaid with gaudy pageantry
any sexually promiscuous woman, esp a prostitute
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
Idioms and Phrases with scarlet woman
A prostitute, an immoral woman, as in Malicious gossip had it that she was a scarlet woman, which was quite untrue. This expression first appeared in Revelation 17:5, describing Saint John's vision of a woman in scarlet clothes with an inscription on her forehead, “Mystery, Babylon the Great, the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth.” Some interpreters believe she stood for Rome, drunk with the blood of saints, but by about 1700 the term was being used more generally for a woman with loose morals.
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.