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[wid-oh] /ˈwɪd oʊ/
a woman who has lost her spouse by death and has not remarried.
Cards. an additional hand or part of a hand, as one dealt to the table.
  1. a short last line of a paragraph, especially one less than half of the full measure or one consisting of only a single word.
  2. the last line of a paragraph when it is carried over to the top of the following page away from the rest of the paragraph.
    Compare orphan (def 4).
a woman often left alone because her husband devotes his free time to a hobby or sport (used in combination).
Compare golf widow.
verb (used with object), widowed, widowing.
to make (someone) a widow:
She was widowed by the war.
to deprive of anything cherished or needed:
A surprise attack widowed the army of its supplies.
  1. to endow with a widow's right.
  2. to survive as the widow of.
Origin of widow
before 900; (noun) Middle English wid(e)we, Old English widuwe, wydewe; cognate with German Witwe, Gothic widuwo, Latin vidua (feminine of viduus bereaved), Sanskrit vidhavā widow; (v.) Middle English, derivative of the noun
Related forms
widowly, adjective
unwidowed, adjective
Can be confused
widow, widower. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for widow
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • “That is the Holy Inquisition,” said the widow, crossing herself.

    The Phantom Ship Frederick Marryat
  • "I trust, Mr. Hurd, you have come with good news," said the widow.

    The Opal Serpent Fergus Hume
  • In 1890 only one was left, an old woman, the widow of a Cherokee husband.

    Myths of the Cherokee James Mooney
  • If a widow has value for any purpose, she falls to the heir and he may exploit her.

    Folkways William Graham Sumner
  • Mick isn't Grant's widow, and you are of age, goodness knows.

    An Outback Marriage Andrew Barton Paterson
British Dictionary definitions for widow


a woman who has survived her husband, esp one who has not remarried
(usually with a modifier) (informal) a woman whose husband frequently leaves her alone while he indulges in a sport, etc: a golf widow
(printing) a short line at the end of a paragraph, esp one that occurs as the top line of a page or column Compare orphan (sense 3)
(in some card games) an additional hand or set of cards exposed on the table
verb (transitive; usually passive)
to cause to become a widow or a widower
to deprive of something valued or desirable
Derived Forms
widowhood, noun
Word Origin
Old English widuwe; related to German Witwe, Latin vidua (feminine of viduus deprived), Sanskrit vidhavā
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for widow

Old English widewe, widuwe, from Proto-Germanic *widewo (cf. Old Saxon widowa, Old Frisian widwe, Middle Dutch, Dutch weduwe, Dutch weeuw, Old High German wituwa, German Witwe, Gothic widuwo), from PIE adj. *widhewo (cf. Sanskrit vidhuh "lonely, solitary," vidhava "widow;" Avestan vithava, Latin vidua, Old Church Slavonic vidova, Russian vdova, Old Irish fedb, Welsh guedeu "widow;" Persian beva, Greek eitheos "unmarried man;" Latin viduus "bereft, void"), from root *weidh- "to separate" (cf. second element in Latin di-videre "to divide;" see with).

As a prefix to a name, attested from 1570s. Meaning "short line of type" (especially at the top of a column) is 1904 print shop slang. Widow's mite is from Mark xii:43. Widow's peak is from the belief that hair growing to a point on the forehead is an omen of early widowhood, suggestive of the "peak" of a widow's hood. Widow maker "anything lethally dangerous" first recorded 1945, originally among loggers, in reference to dead trees, etc. The widow bird (1747) so-called in reference to the long black tail feathers of the males, suggestive of widows' veils.


c.1300; see widow (n.). Related: Widowed; widowing.


c.1300; see widow (n.). Related: Widowed; widowing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for widow



  1. A short line of type, esp an isolated one at the top of a column or page (1904+ Print shop & publishing)
  2. A spare hand dealt in certain card games (1891+ Cardplaying)

Related Terms

golf widow, grass widow

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with widow


The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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