Legal Definition and Related Resources of Dower

Meaning of Dower

That portion or interest in the real estate of a deceased husband which the law gives to his widow during her life. The life interest which a wife acquires on her husband’s death in one-third of all the real estate of which he may have been seised or possessed at any time during their marriage. This right vests in the wife upon the death of the husband. See Dickson v industrial Nat. Bank of Rhode Island, 348 A.2d 26, 115 R.I. 458.

Dower Alternative Definition

(Fr. doner, to endow). The provision which the law makes for a widow out of the lands or tenements of her husband, for her support and the nurture of her children. Co. Litt. 30a; 2 Bl. Comm. 130; 4 Kent, Comm. 35; Washb. Real Prop. 146. The word “dower” has reference to real estate only. 86 Me. 216. It has three stages: (1) Inchoate, from marriage to the death of the husband; (2) consummate, from the death of the husband to admeasurement; and (3) assigned from the time when it is set off to the vadow. Stew. Husb. & Wife, §§ 262-264. There were five species of dower in England :
(1) Dower by custom, where a widow became entitled to a specified portion of her husband’s lands in consequence of some local or particular custom.
(2). Dower ad ostium ecclesiae, where a man of full age , on coming to the church door to be married, endowed his wife of a certain portion of his lands.
(3) Dower ex assensu patris, which differed from dower ad ostium ecclesiae only In being made out of the lands of the husband’s father, and with his consent.
(A) Dower de la plus belle, where the widow, on suing the guardian in chivalry for dower, was required by him to endow herself of the fairest portion of any lands she might hold as guardian in socage, and thus release from dower the lands of her husband held in chivalry. This was abolished along with the military tenures, of which it was a consequence. 2 Bl. Comm. 132, note.
(5) Dower bjr common law, where the widow was entitled during her life to a third part of all the lands and tenements in fee simple or fee tail of which her husband yas seised at any time during the coverture, and of which any issue she might have had might by possibility have been heir. Since the passage of the dower act in England (3 & 4 Wm. IV. c. 105), all these species of dower, except that by custom and by the common law, have ceased to exist. 2 Sharswood, ‘ Bl. Comm. 135, note. Dower in the United States, although regulated by statutes differing from each other in many respects, conforms substantially to that at the common law. 1 Washb. Real Prop. 149.

Synonyms of Dower


  • allotment
  • allowance
  • appanage
  • award
  • bequest
  • bestowal
  • bestowment
  • dos
  • dotation
  • effects
  • endowment
  • estate
  • inheritance
  • jointure
  • legacy
  • remainder
  • settlement
  • widow’s estate
  • widow’s portion Associated Concepts: consummated right of dower
  • curtesy
  • dower interest
  • dower right
  • election of dower
  • estate in dower
  • inchoate right of dower
  • right of dower
  • widow’s dowerforeign phrases: Favorabilia in lege suntfiscus
  • dos
  • vita
  • libertas
  • Favorites of the law are the treasury
  • dower
  • life
  • and liberty

Related Entries of Dower in the Encyclopedia of Law Project

Browse or run a search for Dower in the American Encyclopedia of Law, the Asian Encyclopedia of Law, the European Encyclopedia of Law, the UK Encyclopedia of Law or the Latin American and Spanish Encyclopedia of Law.

Dower in Historical Law

You might be interested in the historical meaning of this term. Browse or search for Dower in Historical Law in the Encyclopedia of Law.

Legal Abbreviations and Acronyms

Search for legal acronyms and/or abbreviations containing Dower in the Legal Abbreviations and Acronyms Dictionary.

Related Legal Terms

You might be also interested in these legal terms:

Mentioned in these terms

Admeasurement, Concubinage, Dowable, Encumbrance, Endowment, Estate, Free Bench, Gavelkind, Inchoate, Life Estate, Metes And Bounds, Privies, Triens.


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Related topics Dower in the World Encyclopedia of Law


This definition of Dower is based on the The Cyclopedic Law Dictionary . This entry needs to be proofread.

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Dower in the United States

Dower in Connecticut

Upon the death of a husband, a widow has a right of dower, which is not a property right but an equity; and it does not become a property interest until there has been an assignment thereof . . . . Dower does not vest automatically in the widow but is allocated only on petition of the widow, heirs, or other interested parties. Marino v. Smith, 454 So.2d 1380, 1382 (Ala. 1984).


See Also

  • Law Dictionaries.
  • Premarital Agreement.
  • Concept of Dower in the context of Real Property

    A short definition of Dower: A common law interest of a wife in the property of her deceased husband. Being changed in many states by statute to give more equality between men and women in property rights.

    Concept of Dower in the context of Real Property

    A short definition of Dower: A common law interest of a wife in the property of her deceased husband. Being changed in many states by statute to give more equality between men and women in property rights.



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