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

  • n. A man whose wife has died and who has not remarried.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A man whose wife has died (and who has not re-married); masculine of widow.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A man who has lost his wife by death, and has not married again.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A man who has lost his wife by death.
  • n. See the quotation.
  • n. One who or that which widows or bereaves.

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

  • n. a man whose wife is dead especially one who has not remarried


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

Middle English widewer, from widewe, widow; see widow.



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  • Right--who ever heard of a widower's walk?

    In past centuries (not just 19th), most women who survived childbearing years ended up outliving their husbands by sometimes very significant margins. Corsets didn't kill women (just deformed them), and gas lamps would have killed men just as often. It was childbirth. That, and the burgeoning profession of medicine (only men could practice it, of course) that just about stamped out midwifery and replaced competent female birth attendants with men who scientifically dissected corpses just before (not washing their hands and then) delivering women--and then wondering why a huge percentage of them died of infection.

    I'm a little touchy on this subject currently, so forgive me if this comment comes off as attacking anyone or anything on Wordie. It is not meant that way.

    May 29, 2009

  • A new formation in the 1300s, replacing 'widow', which had distinct masculine and feminine endings in Old English.

    It has been said that the female is the default value here because widowhood was traditionally more important as an indicator of social status (dependence, availability etc.) in females.

    May 29, 2009

  • Not to mention childbirth.

    May 29, 2009

  • an intriguing exception to the tradition of tacking feminine suffices onto 'default' masculine nouns (e.g. actress; executrix). one imagines women to be those bereaved of spouses as a rule, though a Victorian-era historian once told me that during the 19th century, most men (in Canada and presumably America as well) re-married because their wives died early of various hazards of the era (e.g. nasty loads of housework in corsets and the gaseous excretions of early lamps).

    May 29, 2009