Dutch wife


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The origin of the term is thought to be from the Dutch colony of Indonesia where Dutch traders would spend long periods away from their wives.



Dutch wife (plural Dutch wives)

  1. A long body-length bolster (pillow) that can be held or wrapped around one's body while sleeping.
    • 1959, Anthony Burgess, Beds in the East (The Malayan Trilogy), published 1972, page 490:
      His eyes wide with surprise and fear, he clutched tightly the bolster — sweat- absorbing bedfellow of sleepers in the East — known as a Dutch wife. [...] "What do you mean? Who are you?" Maniam's great eyes, his black skin oiled with sweat, Maniam's hands pudgily clutching his Dutch wife.
  2. In East Asia and Southeast Asia, a wicker or bamboo tube the size of a person for use in the bed. In the summer heat, the open bamboo structure is cooler than fabric pillows or sheets. The Dutch wife is embraced by the user, exposing the maximum amount of the body to cooling breezes.