Trophy wife

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"Trophy Wife" redirects here. For other uses, see Trophy Wife (disambiguation).
The ill-matched couple, by Lucas Cranach (c. 1550), National Museum in Warsaw

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 or unattractive, but usually wealthy. Such a gentleman may be referred to as a sugar daddy. The term is normally used in a derogatory or disparaging way. The term trophy husband is the male equivalent, although this is rarer.

Referring to a spouse as a trophy wife usually reflects negatively on the character or personality of both parties. For the husband, it has a connotation of pure narcissism and the need to impress other men, and that the husband would not be able to attract the sexual interest of the attractive woman for any reason apart from 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 beyond remaining attractive, requires substantial expense 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.[1] 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,[2] and immediately entered common usage.[citation needed] Many sources claim the term was coined earlier (for example, the Online Etymology Dictionary cites 1984),[3] 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.[4] However, the idiom is found in passing in a quote in a 1965 publication, apparently referring to the wife of Bernie Madoff.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed] There is the example found in the Naturalis Historia (by Pliny the Younger), though the meaning was probably not close to today's meaning and referred to "trophy women" as part of the tribute paid to Roman conquerors by defeated opponents.[5] One University of Notre Dame sociologist[who?] believes the phenomenon in modern society is less common than other research suggests.[6]

In popular culture[edit]

  • Comedian Steven Wright once joked, "A friend of mine has a trophy wife. But from the looks of her, it wasn't first place".[7]
  • 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.[8] At the time of their marriage, he was 89 years old and she was 26.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Linker, Harry. "Buying into the Hype: Trophy Antiques and Collectibles". 7 May 2010.<>.
  2. ^ Safire, William, "On Language; Trophy Wife", The New York Times, May 1, 1994.
  3. ^ Harper, Douglas. "trophy". Online Etymology Dictionary. 
  4. ^ Oxford English Dictionary Addition Series 1997
  5. ^ LeBor, Adam (1 January 2009). "The Believers: How America Fell for Bernard Madoffs $65 Billion Investment Scam". Phoenix. Retrieved 28 September 2016 – via Google Books. 
  6. ^ "Is There Really Such A Thing As A 'Trophy Wife'?". Retrieved 28 September 2016. 
  7. ^ "So Many Comics, so Little Time: A 'Laughs' Roundup". Chicago Tribune. 19 June 2011.
  8. ^ Roy, Amit. "Padma walks out, but some 'trophy wives' have stayed the course", The Telegraph, India (4 July 2007).
  9. ^ Barone, Michael. "More Than Anna Nicole Smith's Husband: The Oil-Soaked Life of J. Howard Marshall". 2 March 2009.

External links[edit]