Trophy wife is an informal term for a wife, usually young and attractive, who is regarded as a status symbol for the husband, who is often older and wealthy. The term trophy husband is the male equivalent.
Referring to a spouse as a trophy wife usually reflects negatively on the character or personality of the husband, and has a connotation of narcissism and desire to impress others, and that the husband would not be able to attract the sexual interest of the attractive woman but for his wealth or position. It can also be used to imply that the trophy wife in question has little personal merit besides her physical attractiveness, does very little of substance outside of remaining attractive, requires substantial costs for maintaining her appearance and is in some ways synonymous with the term "gold digger".
The term's etymological origins are disputed. One claim is that trophy wife originally appeared in a 1950 issue of The Economist newspaper, referring to the historical practice of warriors capturing the most beautiful women during battle to bring home as wives. William Safire claimed that the term trophy wife was coined by Julie Connelly, a senior editor of Fortune magazine, in a cover story in the issue of August 28, 1989 and immediately entered common usage. Many sources claim the term was coined earlier (for example, the Online Etymology Dictionary cites 1984) but easy online access to William Safire's article about the term has led many (such as Oxford English Dictionary) to believe that August 28, 1989 was its first use. However, the idiom is found in passing in a quote in a 1965 publication, apparently referring to the wife of Bernie Madoff.
The 64th US Congress presented a large silver trophy to Elizabeth Bolling Galt upon the occasion of her marriage to President Woodrow Wilson on December 18, 1915. This trophy is on display at the Woodrow Wilson House, S Street, Washington, DC. Mrs. Wilson was 16 years junior to the President.
Considering the possible recent origins of the term it must be noted that the term in Latin, Tropaeum uxor, appears in many scripts of both Greek and Roman origin dating as far back as the first half of the first century, as far back as 50 AD. There is the example found in the Naturalis Historia (by Gaius Plinius Secundus); though the meaning was probably not close to today's meaning and referred to "trophy women" as part of the tribute to Roman conquerors by defeated opponents. 
In popular culture
- Comedian Steven Wright once quipped, "A friend of mine has a trophy wife. But from the looks of her, it wasn't first place".
- The marriage of former Playboy Playmate Anna Nicole Smith to oil billionaire J. Howard Marshall was widely followed by the US mass media as an extreme example of this concept. At the time of their marriage, he was 89 years old and she was only 26.
- In Panic! At the Disco song "The Only Difference Between Martyrdom and Suicide is Press Coverage," the chorus states "swear to shake it up if you'll swear to listen, 'cause we're still so young, desperate for attention. I aim to be your eyes trophy boys, trophy wives."
- Linker, Harry. "Buying into the Hype: Trophy Antiques and Collectibles". 7 May 2010.<http://www.worthpoint.com/blog-entry/buying-hype-trophy-antiques-collectibles>.
- Safire, William (1 May 1994). "ON LANGUAGE; Trophy Wife". The New York Times.
- Harper, Douglas. "trophy". Online Etymology Dictionary.
- Oxford English Dictionary Addition Series 1997
- "So Many Comics, so Little Time: A 'Laughs' Roundup". Chicago Tribune. 19 June 2011.
- Roy, Amit. "Padma walks out, but some 'trophy wives' have stayed the course", The Telegraph, India (4 July 2007).
- Barone, Michael. "More Than Anna Nicole Smith's Husband: The Oil-Soaked Life of J. Howard Marshall". 2 March 2009.
|Look up trophy wife in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
- Alpha males forsake the trophy wife, article in the Sunday Times, stating that "Academics say they have found the first evidence that successful British males increasingly prefer a spouse with a high-powered job to one who stays at home with the children."
- http://www.t3.com/reviews/phones/mobile-phones/motorola-aura-mobile-phone-review T3 magazine in a review of the Motorola luxury "Aura" mobile phone model: "We think it’s best to think of the AURA as the trophy-wife of the phone world, it’s great to look at and bring to social occasions, but that’s about it."