AskDefine | Define widow

The Collaborative Dictionary

Widow \Wid"ow\, a. Widowed. "A widow woman." --1 Kings xvii.
"This widow lady." --Shak. [1913 Webster]
Widow \Wid"ow\, v. t. [imp. & p. p. Widowed; p. pr. & vb. n. Widowing.] [1913 Webster]
To reduce to the condition of a widow; to bereave of a husband; -- rarely used except in the past participle. [1913 Webster] Though in thus city he Hath widowed and unchilded many a one, Which to this hour bewail the injury. --Shak. [1913 Webster]
To deprive of one who is loved; to strip of anything beloved or highly esteemed; to make desolate or bare; to bereave. [1913 Webster] The widowed isle, in mourning, Dries up her tears. --Dryden. [1913 Webster] Tress of their shriveled fruits Are widowed, dreary storms o'er all prevail. --J. Philips. [1913 Webster] Mourn, widowed queen; forgotten Sion, mourn. --Heber. [1913 Webster]
To endow with a widow's right. [R.] --Shak. [1913 Webster]
To become, or survive as, the widow of. [Obs.] [1913 Webster] Let me be married to three kings in a forenoon, and widow them all. --Shak. [1913 Webster]
Widow \Wid"ow\ (w[i^]d"[-o]), n. [OE. widewe, widwe, AS. weoduwe, widuwe, wuduwe; akin to OFries. widwe, OS. widowa, D. weduwe, G. wittwe, witwe, OHG. wituwa, witawa, Goth. widuw[=o], Russ. udova, OIr. fedb, W. gweddw, L. vidua, Skr. vidhav[=a]; and probably to Skr. vidh to be empty, to lack; cf. Gr. "hi`qeos a bachelor. [root]248. Cf. Vidual.] A woman who has lost her husband by death, and has not married again; one living bereaved of a husband. "A poor widow." --Chaucer. [1913 Webster]
(Card Playing) In various games (such as "hearts"), any extra hand or part of a hand, as one dealt to the table. It may be taken by one of the players under certain circumstances. [Webster 1913 Suppl.] Grass widow. See under Grass. Widow bewitched, a woman separated from her husband; a grass widow. [Colloq.] Widow-in-mourning (Zool.), the macavahu. Widow monkey (Zool.), a small South American monkey (Callithrix lugens); -- so called on account of its color, which is black except the dull whitish arms, neck, and face, and a ring of pure white around the face. Widow's chamber (Eng. Law), in London, the apparel and furniture of the bedchamber of the widow of a freeman, to which she was formerly entitled. [1913 Webster]

Word Net

widow n : a woman whose husband is dead especially one who has not remarried [syn: widow woman] v : cause to be without a spouse; "The war widowed many women in the former Yugoslavia"



From widewe



  1. A woman whose husband has died (and has not re-married)
  2. (informal, in combination) A woman whose husband is often away pursuing a sport etc
    • A golf-widow
  3. (printing) a single line of type, that ends a paragraph, carried over to the next page or column


a woman whose husband has died
a woman whose husband is often away
  • Finnish: leski
a line of type

Related terms

Derived terms


  1. To make a widow (or widower) of someone; to cause the death of one's spouse.
A widow is a woman whose spouse has died. A man whose spouse has died is a widower. The state of having lost one's spouse to death is termed widowhood or (occasionally) viduity. The gender neutral term is widowed. The social status of widows has been an important social issue, particularly in the past. In families in which the husband was the sole provider, widowhood could plunge the family into poverty, and many charities had as a goal the aid of widows and orphans (often, not children without parents, but children without a contributing father). This was aggravated by women's longer life spans, and that men generally marry women younger than themselves, and by the greater ease with which men remarried.
However, in some patriarchal societies, widows were among the most independent women. A widow sometimes carried on her late husband's business and consequently accorded certain rights, such as the right to enter guilds. More recently, widows of elected officials have been among the first women elected to office in many countries (e.g. Corazon Aquino).
There were implications for sexual freedom as well; although some wills contained dum casta provisions (requiring widows to remain unmarried in order to receive inheritance), in societies preventing divorce, widowhood permitted women to remarry and have a greater range of sexual experiences. The Wife of Bath in Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales refers to having been widowed five times, permitting her greater sexual experience. In some other cultures, widows are treated differently. For instance, in India there is often an elaborate ceremony during the funeral of a widow's husband, including smashing the bangles, removing the bindi as well as any colorful attire, and requiring the woman to wear white clothes, the colour of mourning. Earlier it was compulsory to wear all white after the husband was dead, and even Widow burning (sati or suttee) was practiced sometimes. However in modern day culture this has gradually given way to wearing colored clothing. Sati practice has been banned in India for more than a century. The ban began under British rule of India owing to the persistence of social reformer RajaRam Mohan Roy.
In other cultures, widows are required to remarry within the family of their late husband; see widow inheritance. This started as a custom to ensure that no widow could be kicked out of her home and face a life without financial provision, but it can also be used to keep money within the family. In addition, it is an important factor in the transmission of HIV within certain communities, e.g. the Luo, and is being challenged on human rights grounds.

Cultural references to widows

widow in Arabic: أرملة
widow in Aymara: Chupa
widow in Breton: Intañv
widow in Danish: Enke (kvinde)
widow in German: Witwer
widow in Spanish: Viudez
widow in Esperanto: Vidvo
widow in Persian: بیوه
widow in Italian: Vedovanza
widow in Hebrew: אלמנות
widow in Dutch: Weduwschap
widow in Japanese: 寡婦
widow in Norwegian: Enke (person)
widow in Norwegian Nynorsk: Enkje
widow in Polish: Wdowieństwo
widow in Russian: Вдова
widow in Simple English: Widow
widow in Finnish: Leski
widow in Chinese: 寡妇
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