What does ‘uxorious’ mean?

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Increase your vocabulary and you’ll make your writing much more precise. That’s why I provide a word of the week. Today’s word: uxorious….

When I encountered the word uxorious in Patricia Hampl’s very fine non-fiction book The Art of the Wasted Day, I had no idea what it meant. Here is how Hampl used the term:

After her, the next generation of women, her daughters, my aunts, childless stay-at-home wives who cooked for their uxorious husbands, whose lunch pails they outfitted with straggly wrap sandwiches, scratch-baked slices of cake, a thermos of coffee.

I wondered if it perhaps meant people who were gluttonous or overly concerned with food. But, no, it turns out that uxorious means someone who shows an excessive or submissive fondness for their wife.

Uxorious is Latin in origin, with uxor meaning ‘wife’. First known use of the word dates back to 1598 although it was a relatively common term in the 19th century. Today it is seldom used, although an Oct. 5/17 story in Newsweek employed it as follows, in reference to US vice-president Mike Pence:

[Donald Trump’s] other big concession to his devout army was picking Pence to be his running (and kneeling) mate. The uxorious Hoosier, whose political career seemed deader than Lazarus or Myspace two years ago, is now a heartbeat—or a Robert Mueller indictment— away from being leader of the free world.

The New Yorker also used the word in a March 29/17 story about NBA point guard Kyrie Irving:

[LaVar] Ball is certainly the father of three extremely talented basketball-playing brothers. He has started his own brand—Big Baller—and is often shown in videos walking around his home in Chino Hills, California, doing domestic things and making uxorious remarks about family life. 

An earlier version of this post first appeared on my blog on June 10/19.

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