from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun A woman who is divorced or separated from her husband.
  • noun A woman whose husband is temporarily absent.
  • noun An abandoned mistress.
  • noun The mother of a child born out of wedlock.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun An unmarried woman who has had a child.
  • noun A wife temporarily separated from her husband, as while he is traveling or residing at a distance on account of business: also often applied to a divorced woman, or to a wife who has been abandoned by her husband.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • noun a divorced woman or a woman who is separated from her husband


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Perhaps in allusion to a bed of grass or hay.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From grass + widow. Compare Dutch grasweduwe, Swedish gräsänka.


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  • Generally taken to mean a woman who is temporarily separated from her husband (e.g. because of a work or military assignment). Thus, allegedly, a widow by grace or favour, not by necessity (as in the cause of death).

    Several etymologies appear to be out there, none of them altogether convincing.

    October 27, 2007

  • Anatoly Liberman argues persuasively that "grace widow" should be dismissed as folk etymology. He has a interesting discussion of the history of the term grass widow at

    June 2, 2015