Social Question

mrentropy's avatar

Why is a man a 'widower'?

Asked by mrentropy (17173points) April 18th, 2010

When a woman’s husband dies, she’s a widow. When a man’s husband dies he becomes a widower.

Why a widower? The word suggests to me someone who goes around knocking off women’s husbands.

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14 Answers

Kayak8's avatar

Per Merriam-Webster:

Widow was wuduwe
Widower was wuduwa

Etymology: Middle English widewer, alteration of wedow widow, widower, from Old English wuduwa widower; akin to Old English wuduwe widow

jaytkay's avatar

Interesting. I thought maybe it was a rare English word where the masculine version was derived from the feminine.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

That would be a widow-maker.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

I’ve found the difference strange. I refer to myself as a widow.

Sarcasm's avatar

@CyanoticWasp Someone who skates is a skater. Someone who bakes is a baker. Someone who runs is a runner.
If our language was consistent, someone who widows would be a widower.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

@Sarcasm well, there you have it. Our language doesn’t follow such precise rules.

Which is why George Carlin’s question about “why do we drive on a parkway and park on a driveway?” is so apt.

Jeruba's avatar

It’s definitely one of the few words we have left that are specific to gender.

@mrentropy, I think you meant “when a man’s wife dies.”

@Sarcasm, and a mother would do what?

CyanoticWasp's avatar

One of the few, @Jeruba?

It seems like we still have a good plenty:
mother / father
brother / sister
aunt / uncle
actress
waitress
aunt
suffragette (and other words ending in “ette”)
huntress (and other words ending in “ess”)
she / her
he / his

And that’s where I’m stopping for now, but I’m sure I could come up with others if I had a mind to put up to it.

Sarcasm's avatar

@Jeruba My mom moths all the time. Consistency!

JeffVader's avatar

@Sarcasm Heh…. so what does a wanker do?

mrentropy's avatar

@stranger_in_a_strange_land I think I’ll just say “I’m widowed” if it comes up in conversation.

@Jeruba Oh. Yup. You are right. I typo’d :(

@Kayak8 Thanks for that. It’s a sad sign of the times when I’m checking Wiki and forgetting about the dictionary.

GrumpyGram's avatar

@mrentropy Did you get this question from Sleepless in Seattle? LOL

mrentropy's avatar

@GrumpyGram No. My wife was killed in a car accident in April and I was sitting around being depressed when it occurred to me that I was a widower. I never thought I’d be one, never wanted to be one, but here I am. Since I have odd thought processes in the best of times, I thought, much as the question goes, that a ‘widower’ sounds more like someone who makes widows, not someone who lost a wife.

It seems to me that ‘widow’ should probably be gender neutral.

GrumpyGram's avatar

@mrentropy I am so sorry for your loss. ((((hugs))))

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