Meaning of wife sale in English:

wife sale


  • The sale of a wife; specifically an informal divorce ritual in which a married woman is offered by her husband for sale to male bidders at a public auction.

    Wife sales, often held with the woman's consent, sometimes occurred among the poorer classes of Britain in the 18th and early 19th centuries when divorce was not readily available or affordable. The phenomenon was brought to wider public attention by the depiction of such an auction in the opening chapter of Thomas Hardy's The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886), though the term itself does not appear in Hardy's work.


Mid 19th century.