23

What word describes a woman who takes lead over her husband and/or children in social family situations? Talks lively, entertains people around and at the same time does not allow her husband to speak by answering first and overwhelming him with her vigour.

Edit: As some users rightfully noticed in comments I did not ask for a person who irritates everyone around with her attitude. To this, other users raised concern the question is ambiguous and unclear because of that. I see no contradiction between being a vigorous, entertaining, and pleasant woman to everyone around, and at the same shutting off her spouse and other members of the family.

I don't even see why should I and how can I clarify that point other than what I already wrote.
Nevertheless all answers provide valuable insight even if they are slightly off the original question.

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    Because I am looking for an English counterpart of a word that exists in another language that describes such a woman and not a man. – macraf Oct 29 '15 at 5:32
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    I see. You could add that word to your question, if it helps pinpoint the meaning you want. – sumelic Oct 29 '15 at 5:37
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    Matriarch may work. It's technical meaning is somewhat different, but it is often used to describe the "queen" of the family. Otherwise, a literary reference might be considered. – Hot Licks Oct 29 '15 at 6:35
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    @macraf "attention whore" might also fit to some extent... – Elian Oct 29 '15 at 12:42
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    SWMBO -- She Who Must Be Obeyed – Hot Licks Oct 30 '15 at 12:34

18 Answers 18

44

Matriarch: A matriarch is a woman who is the mother and head of a family.

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    That doesn't really say "Talks lively, entertains people around and at the same time does not allow her husband to speak by answering first and overwhelming him with her vigour" to me. – Carl Kevinson Oct 29 '15 at 15:39
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    no you are right it is not an exact match, the advantage of this over, say henpecker is it conveys control over the whole family rather than just the husband – jk. Oct 29 '15 at 16:03
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    I don't think "matriarch" has the right connotations. The word "matriarch" is used to describe a woman with authority in a family. She is not necessarily lording it over her husband. It's not at all disconcerting to say, "Bob and Sally were the patriarch and matriarch of the Jones clan." And more to the point, it doesn't have the connotations of being rude and interrupting. – Jay Oct 29 '15 at 21:08
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    @CarlKevinson Matriarch - Dictionary.com : a woman who is the founder or dominant member of a community or group – Mazura Oct 30 '15 at 0:29
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    @Mazura The dominant member doesn't necessarily "talk lively", entertain people, or disallow their spouse from answering first. The dominant members of my family lead without those traits. In fact, there are people in my family that are lively and entertaining, and tend to answer first, but no one would consider them patriarchs or matriarchs. – Carl Kevinson Oct 30 '15 at 13:09
28

I often use the phrase “queen bee”:

  1. (Animals) the fertile female bee in a hive
  2. a woman in a position of dominance or ascendancy over her peers or associates

(from the Free Dictionary).

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    Not normally used to refer to a family context though. We talk about a woman being the queen bee of the office or the queen bee of her sorority, but rarely of her family. And not necessarily rude, just in charge. – Jay Oct 29 '15 at 21:09
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    @Jay Why did you use the word "rude" in your comment? Neither question, nor answer, nor comments under this answer mentioned it. I was actually looking for a non-negative word. I mentioned "entertaining", "vigour" which I believed were rather neutral or even positive. It just seems most people do not like such attitude and find it annoying, I guess. – macraf Oct 29 '15 at 21:17
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    @macraf Maybe I misunderstood your question. I'd think that someone who is constantly interrupting others and not allowing them to speak would be called "rude". Maybe I'm missing the intent of the description you gave. – Jay Oct 29 '15 at 21:33
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    @Jay I left the question open in this regard. It's just interesting most people immediately see only bad aspects. – macraf Oct 29 '15 at 23:09
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    @MatthewLeingang Doesn't "queen be" have a notion of "making other people work for her" instead of being (over)active herself? – macraf Oct 29 '15 at 23:11
18

Consider, henpecker

: one who henpecks or nags Wiktionary

henpeck: to subject (one's husband) to persistent nagging and domination

henpecked: (particularly of husbands) plagued or overwhelmed by a nagging or overbearing wife. Wiktionary

Other expressions are,

she wears the pants [(in the family or house)]

wear the pants: exercise controlling authority in a household, as in Grandma wears the pants at our house. This idiom, generally applied to women and dating from the mid-1500s, a time when they wore only skirts, equates pants with an authoritative and properly masculine role. Originally put as wear the breeches, it remains in use despite current fashions. The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms

She rules the roost

: to be the boss or manager, especially at home. McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs

This expression originated in the 15th century as rule the roast, which was either a corruption of rooster or alluded to the person who was in charge of the roast and thus ran the kitchen. In the barnyard a rooster decides which hen should roost near him. Both interpretations persisted for 200 years. Thomas Heywood (c. 1630) put it as "Her that ruled the roast in the kitchen," but Shakespeare had it in 2 Henry VI (1:1): "The new-made duke that rules the roast," which is more ambiguous. In the mid-1700s roost began to compete with roast, and in the 1900s roost displaced roast altogether. The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms

Alternately, how about the rare, obsolescent maîtresse femme, sort of a boss lady in proper English?

maîtresse femme : a strong willed or domineering woman English Enacademic

"She was a maîtresse femme, who ruled the house with a sunshiny success which utterly set at nought the old proverb -- 'La maison est misérable et méchante où la poule plus haut que le coq chante.'" Stories of My Life, Volumes 1-3

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    People just don't use 'henpecker'. You say 'That guy is henpecked'. – Mitch Oct 30 '15 at 15:43
  • I've never heard this word in my life (I'm almost 24). Perhaps my diction is poor. – jdero Oct 30 '15 at 18:43
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    I don't think this is a good fit. It generally refers specifically to how she treats her husband, not the whole family, and it implies an annoying level of nagging and domination, not just normal family management. – Barmar Nov 2 '15 at 20:13
12

You could consider using "alpha female" as it means:

  1. (biology) the dominant female animal in a pack
  2. (by extension) a self-assured and strong woman; an alphette

[Wiktionary]

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    First answer without negative connotations. – macraf Oct 29 '15 at 8:01
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    @macraf I'm not sure about that, but in that case that would make it a poor answer to your question, as long as "not allowing one's husband to speak by answering first and overwhelming him with one's vigour etc." is negative. – SantiBailors Oct 29 '15 at 15:10
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    There are three problems with the term "alpha female". First, it is an obvious euphemism for "alpha bitch", and makes the speaker seem overly politically correct. Second, "bitch" has negative connotations, which go beyond the behaviors described in the original post. Third, in wolf packs, the "alpha bitch" is usually mated with the "alpha male". The husband in the original post is not acting like an "alpha male". – Jasper Oct 29 '15 at 16:42
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    @macraf I think your question would benefit from clarification at this point. Is the husband a naturally quiet person? Or deaf? Or not good at small talk?. Or reflective? Is he happy with her? Many people here are jumping reflexively to negative conclusions. – ab2 Oct 29 '15 at 23:56
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    @Jasper Apparently Rathony was thinking of "alpha bitch", but I'm not familiar with that term and don't think it's "obvious" at all. As (2) says, it's an extension of "alpha male". – DCShannon Oct 30 '15 at 22:04
7

Not a word, but a phrase...

She wears the pants in the family.

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    I agree this might somewhat convey the sense that the OP is looking for, but I think its a horrible phrase as it implies that she is "the man". What's wrong with a woman domineering as a woman? – Octopus Oct 30 '15 at 5:19
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    I'm not arguing social issues here @Octopus. I was just answering the question. – RubberDuck Oct 30 '15 at 9:27
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    Language reflects and influences society, @RubberDuck. You can't have one without the other. – Rhymoid Oct 30 '15 at 11:03
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    I don't disagree @Rhymoid, but this isn't really the place to discuss that. The question specifically asked for a word to describe this. I simply provided them. – RubberDuck Oct 30 '15 at 11:22
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    @Octopus there is already a quote for this phrase in another answer "This idiom, generally applied to women and dating from the mid-1500s, a time when they wore only skirts, equates pants with an authoritative and properly masculine role." – macraf Oct 30 '15 at 12:01
6

Informally, I would describe what this woman does as stealing her man's thunder in social situations:

to lessen someone's force or authority

to do something that takes attention away from what someone else has done

(http://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/steal+thunder)

There are several corresponding nouns, notably thunder-stealer and thunder-thief. They basically mean a person who tends to hog the spotlight by claiming the attention originally directed at you:

Thunder-thief:

A person constantly stealing one's "thunder."

Someone who takes something away from you (such as attention, or trends or expressions you began).

When someone tries to always outshine you.

Thunder-stealer:

An a**hole who attempts to steal the attention of another at a certain time.

This applies to both women and men, though.

  • This implies that the attention is rightly his, or originally his in some way, which doesn't match the OPs question. – SuperBiasedMan Nov 1 '15 at 10:08
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    @SuperBiasedMan Yeah, I think it's his, and before he opens his mouth to answer the question, the lady butts in and "does not allow her husband to speak by answering first." – A.P. Nov 1 '15 at 11:00
  • @SuperBiasedMan Also, I don't think you should out-OP the OP: macraf noted on several occasions that other answers are also useful, even though they are off at some point (I think all of them are.) – A.P. Nov 1 '15 at 11:02
4

You probably may call her a virago:

  • woman regarded as noisy, scolding, or domineering.

(AHD)

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    Lively, entertaining, hogs the limelight in social situations? Doesn't virago carry an almost violently ill-tempered connotation? – deadrat Oct 29 '15 at 5:45
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    ....."and at the same time does not allow her husband to speak by answering first and overwhelming him with her vigour." I understand OP is looking for a way to define mainly a 'dominating' woman, both in social and private life. – user66974 Oct 29 '15 at 5:47
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    Yeah, sure. But I've known plenty of women who wouldn't let their husbands (or anyone else) get a word in edgewise in social situations. None of them would I characterize as a virago, which I think requires more than verbosity. – deadrat Oct 29 '15 at 5:51
  • Well, that the definition that comes close to what OP is looking for, IMO. – user66974 Oct 29 '15 at 5:53
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    If I may interrupt, I think @deadrat correctly guessed my intentions. But with the clarification this is also a valuable answer. – macraf Oct 29 '15 at 5:54
3

Diva.

Half the description in the OP skews "positive" and half skews "negative." But the negative overwhelms the positive because the behavior is offensive, and would be no matter the sex or gender of the person. That's the main reason so many of the suggested words are "negative."

Because the OP presents this negative behavior as being that of a woman, directed at her husband, and because the sought word is specifically "for a woman," then of course most of the suggested words are going to be "perhaps a little sexist": the conditions set out in the question practically beg for a "sexist" term.

That said, and in the absence of additional context, I think the generally held sense of the word "Diva" contains and/or can easily accommodate both the positive and the negative characteristics specified in the OP.

I'm surprised no one else has suggested it.

2

Sounds like a Battle-Axe to me. The Mirriam Webster definition of such a person is:

an unpleasant older woman who speaks in an angry way and tries to control others

2

Dominant

dom·i·nant
adjective
1.
most important, powerful, or influential.
"She dominated the conversation that night so completely that
 she entertained the crowd without ever a word spoken contrary to her
 performance or good graces."
synonyms:   presiding, ruling, governing, controlling, commanding,
 ascendant, supreme, authoritative

While this word is not gendered, it does seem to fit the personality type you are looking for. A dominant personality need not be mean spirited.

"She was such a sweet host, don't you think?"
"Yeah, but she is a total dom, be careful not to make her angry."

If you are looking for a gendered word, I would go with Hen. I disagree with henpecker for that term carries a very negative connotation, but a mother hen could be kind and still be firm or domineering to her Husband and / or family.

Hen is probably pejorative as well, but I think it satisfies a gendered word requirement without being too negative.

2

To my knowledge, there's no one specific word that describes this type of person. There are words to describe very sociable woman, and also words to describe women who control their husbands, but I don't think there's anything to describe the combination of the two as you describe.

In this type of situation, if there's a famous character on tv or from a movie or even real life who demonstrates the qualities, you can say, "this woman is the [insert tv character name] of the family'.

For example, maybe Martha Stewart is like this (it wouldn't surprise me), so if that were true you can say, "this woman is the Martha Stewart of the relationship"

  • +1 Late in coming, but based on the rest of the answers with negative connotations, to say someone is the "insert female character name here" of the family, is the best non-negative response I've seen so far. Bravo. – Eric Hepperle - CodeSlayer2010 May 25 '17 at 18:30
1

"Extrovert", "life and soul of the party", perhaps. These are both gender-neutral though.

The problem is that your question is still unclear. You say (in other replies) that you're looking for an equivalent word which exists in another language. But crucially you haven't told us whether this word is positive, neutral or negative in describing the woman. Is it a compliment or an insult?

1

Dominating the conversation

This doesn't completely capture it--it doesn't characterize this as a continual behaviour and isn't gender-specific.

It's what my brain keeps coming back to, though.

0

For a positive connotation:

hostess with the mostest

http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=hostess+with+the+mostest

Colloquial but pleasant way to describe a woman at the centre of it all!

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    I think this just means she's a great hostess, but she doesn't necessarily have to take lead over her husband to achieve that. – Octopus Oct 30 '15 at 5:21
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    Very true, but every other answer has some negative feeling so I thought I'd throw something positive into the mix – RemarkLima Oct 30 '15 at 6:21
-1

Chatterbox

This too is not bang-on (still not gender-specific), but captures some of the idea. It means someone who talks a lot.

-1

You can probably call her a shrew which means a high maintenance woman. Most people can not stand them.

In China, we say “作女” for this kind of woman, they play a aggressive and self-centred role in family.

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    And they are also called 'tigers moms'. – user66974 Oct 29 '15 at 6:31
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    Is being 'high maintenance' similar to someone who is dominating? High maintenance means someone who has expensive taste be it, clothes or restaurants or anything. – Jony Agarwal Oct 29 '15 at 6:58
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    @JonyAgarwal: No, "high maintenance" refers to someone needing a lot of attention, or being emotionally needy - it's not primarily a financial thing (although someone can, of course, require both!) – psmears Oct 29 '15 at 11:42
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    The term shrew was used by Shakespeare in "The Taming of the Shrew". A film adaptation was made in 1967 with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton as Kate and Petruchio. – Graffito Oct 29 '15 at 12:31
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    I've heard "high maintenance woman" used in both emotional and financial contexts. But either way, "demanding a lot of attention" and "being rude and dominating conversations" are not at all the same thing. A person could easily be "high maintenance" and at the same time be very quiet and submissive. – Jay Oct 29 '15 at 21:15
-2

NPD (though can be used for any gender)

Narcissistic Personality Disorder

The sufferers behave as you say-- quite good to those around them for whom they want their attention, but quite the opposite (vicious) to those near to them who see the cracks & no longer have the person on any sort of pedestal. There are a LOT around:

http://www.halcyon.com/jmashmun/npd/howto.html

-3

'Uxorious' is an English word for a husband who is dominated by his wife.

  • Welcome to English Language & Usage! This answer would be better if you provided a source for it. I hope you'll take the tour to learn more about this site. – Nathaniel Oct 29 '15 at 14:48
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    That's a nice word but it doesn't answer the question.We're looking for a word for the woman, not the man. – Level River St Oct 29 '15 at 15:10
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    So maybe she is an uxoriator? – Octopus Oct 30 '15 at 5:23
  • -1. "Uxorious" means caring for your wife, not being dominated by her. – Graham Oct 30 '15 at 14:02

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