Definition of widow in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /ˈwɪdəʊ/


1A woman who has lost her spouse by death and has not married again.
Example sentences
  • On her husband's death, a widow usually foresees a life full of harassment and humiliation.
  • The right of action for wrongful death given by statute for the benefit of a widow for the death of her husband has been held not to be divested by her subsequent marriage.
  • Upon the death of the husband, the widow generally stays on the land, but only if she pays the sub-headman.
1.1 [with modifier] humorous A woman whose spouse is often away participating in a specified sport or activity: my wife has been a golf widow for the last 30 years
More example sentences
  • I sneakily bought some good tickets months ago and they are coming into play to thank her for being such a good rugby widow sport during this world cup.
  • The agony aunt's first quest is to help golf widow Joy to persuade husband Martin to spend more time with her and their three children.
  • Last Monday, I told my girlfriends at work that this whole football widow business was driving me crazy.
2 Printing A last word or short last line of a paragraph falling at the top of a page or column and considered undesirable.
Example sentences
  • So I saved the space by killing all the widow lines; I could cut a word and save a line. The next day I couldn't bear to read my own words.
3A widowbird.
Example sentences
  • In Africa, for instance, there are birds called widows and whydahs, many of which have tails longer than a foot.


(be widowed)
Become a widow or widower: he was recently widowed (as adjective widowed) her widowed mother
More example sentences
  • At the moment, the group is small and comprises people who are divorced, separated or widowed.
  • Minus One is a social support group for separated, widowed or divorced people.
  • Life Loan is available to married couples, partners and single or widowed people.


Old English widewe, from an Indo-European root meaning 'be empty'; compare with Sanskrit vidh 'be destitute', Latin viduus 'bereft, widowed', and Greek ēitheos 'unmarried man'.

  • Widow is descended from an ancient root meaning ‘to be empty’, which may also the source of divide. A grass widow is now a woman whose husband is away often or for a prolonged period, but originally it was an unmarried woman who had been the mistress of more than one man: the term may have come from the idea of a couple having lain on the grass instead of in bed. Widow's weeds dating from the early 18th century was expressed earlier as mourning weeds: here weeds is in the obsolete general sense ‘garments’ from Old English wǣd(e).

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.