In Arabic countries, specially among Muslims, the sum of money given as a gift in a marriage is given by the man to the woman and not by the woman to the man.

Using the word "dowry" in Arabic countries when speaking to a native English speaker may be confusing.

Is the word "bride price" common? Do native speakers understand it?

Bride price as defined by Collins Dictionary is

(in some societies) money, property, or services given by a bridegroom to the kinsmen of his bride in order to establish his rights over the woman

  • I suppose the problem with the wording 'bride price' is that it gives the impression of buying a woman, which some people (or perhaps most people) would equate with slavery. The OED lists the meaning of 'dowry' as A present or gift given by a man to or for his bride. which is not a matter of 'purchase' but of gift.
    – Nigel J
    Apr 25, 2018 at 11:15
  • @NigelJ (a) it is a payment and has been since the practice started and women were considered chattel; (b) dowry means what is given by the bride or her family to the groom, but OP is asking about what is given by the groom or his family to the bride. That means dowry is not only incorrect but diametrically opposite to what’s needed. OP, yes, native speakers will understand bride price; it’s the common term for that practice, and educated speakers will have been taught it, and it’s such a simple person’s that anyone who hasn’t will be able to work it out directly.
    – Dan Bron
    Apr 25, 2018 at 11:29
  • I thought I knew what "bride price" meant until I read this question (essentially, money/etc. given to the bride's kinsmen). But I see OP himself defines it as assets given to the woman, which I assume means the bride herself. So where once there was clarity, now there's just confusion for me. Translated into ELU terminology, that makes the whole issue POB. Apr 25, 2018 at 11:43
  • I've heard/seen the term many times, and I think I understand what it means.
    – Hot Licks
    Apr 25, 2018 at 11:44
  • @Dan Bron Dower can mean "The portion of a deceased husband's estate which the law allows to his widow for her life. tenant in dower, the widow who thus holds land. †lady of dower, dowager lady". Many entailed estates have a dower house, to which the widow of the owner of the estate moves after the owner dies. The new owner (who is not necessarily the widow's son) moves into the main house. OED and lots of English novels.
    – ab2
    Apr 25, 2018 at 17:48

1 Answer 1


First of all, "dowry" and "bride price" are two different things:

While bride price or bride service is a payment by the groom or his family to the bride's parents, dowry is the wealth transferred from the bride's family to the groom or his family, ostensibly for the bride. Similarly, dower is the property settled on the bride herself, by the groom at the time of marriage, and which remains under her ownership and control.
Wikipedia: Dowry

Your main question, whether "bride price" will be understood or not, is tricky to answer.

Personally, I know what a dowry is, but I'm not sure if I've ever heard of a bride price before. "Bride price" is simply not as common an expression: looking at COCA, there are 551 hits for "dowry" and only 44 for "bride price".

Looking at various articles written about bride price, many (but not all) of them define what "bride price" is. Here are some examples of articles that do that:

If you're not sure if people will understand what you mean by "bride price", you should give a short definition just to be sure.

  • Good distinction between dowry and dower. However, all or part of the dower may terminate at the end of the bride's life and she may have no control over parts of the dower; for example, she cannot sell the dower house, and probably cannot make structural changes to it beyond repairs.
    – ab2
    Apr 25, 2018 at 17:50

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