Definition of widow in English:



  • 1A woman who has lost her spouse by death and has not married again.

    • ‘The tale regards the ruler as a father to the orphan, husband to the widow, brother to she who is divorced, a garment to the motherless, a just ruler who comes to the voice of those who call him.’
    • ‘Married to a widow, Martha Dandridge Custis, he devoted himself to a busy and happy life.’
    • ‘If at the time of her death, a widow leaves no eligible minor child, the payment of her share of the pension will cease.’
    • ‘Upon the death of a husband, a widow chooses a husband from among the dead man's brothers.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Should widows with sizable death benefits also be entitled to short-term relief?’
    • ‘After his death, his widow would receive £30 per annum for the rest of her life.’
    • ‘John Carey spent his last weeks at the hospice receiving unparalleled care that gave him a dignity in death that his widow, Carol, has never forgotten.’
    • ‘On her husband's death, a widow usually foresees a life full of harassment and humiliation.’
    • ‘Following his death, his widow Ruth, who was just 27, quit Wiltshire and returned home to America.’
    • ‘After his death, his widow Janaki had the good sense to collect these loose sheets and send them to Hardy.’
    • ‘Five widows who also lost sons unveiled the memorial in a brief ceremony.’
    • ‘I'm surprised you've not served on some committee with her by now - reformed polar explorers or widows of lost seaman.’
    • ‘For the five years before her death his widow had donated an annual gift of £3,000 towards Burley - unknown to many in the village.’
    • ‘The narrative does not slacken with the news of Daniel's death and the widow's hopeless grief.’
    • ‘After Goldensohn's death, his widow sold some of his papers and bequeathed the rest to her children.’
    • ‘They were widows, or not married, and they laid down their life for his cause.’
    • ‘Although Banalata is not formally defined as a widow because she never married, she is still subject to social conventions that make her a second-class citizen.’
    • ‘His widow Margitta said his death had left a ‘great vacuum’ and she paid tribute to his optimism and warmth.’
    • ‘Upon the death of the husband, the widow generally stays on the land, but only if she pays the sub-headman.’
    1. 1.1humorous [with modifier] 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’
      • ‘Sports widows will probably relate to Lindsey's plight, and long-suffering fans of many teams will see reflections of themselves in Ben.’
      • ‘Last Monday, I told my girlfriends at work that this whole football widow business was driving me crazy.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Golfers and golf widows the world over know St Andrews, know the first tee, the 18th or home green, and the backdrop of a classic Victorian building with its Greek Thomson façade.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Of course, the occasional frustrated chess widow may throw a plate or two.’
      • ‘It also has superb golf courses, so if you're a bit of a golf widow, leave him to tussle in the bunker while you slink off to the spa - it's connected to the hotel by a subterranean tunnel.’
      • ‘For golf widows, there will be a five-star Four Seasons hotel and spa that will act as an informal private club for residents.’
      • ‘Also, I look at my mum and see that she's a bit of a golf widow.’
      • ‘Golf widows will be relieved to hear that it doesn't come with free membership’
      • ‘If you can't get to that point, then I'd give you the same advice I gave this hockey widow, only in fishing language.’
      • ‘Golf widows are also catered for, with shopping excursions and spa days.’
  • 2Printing
    A last word or short last line of a paragraph falling at the top of a page or column and considered undesirable.

    • ‘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.

    • ‘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’
    ‘her widowed mother’
    • ‘She has herself been recently widowed and come to the conclusion that Horace and his fortune will make her the perfect mate.’
    • ‘His old lovers are a mix of married, single and widowed women who lead a mix of uptight, safe, and slightly loopy lives.’
    • ‘PC Collis said the typical victim was female, aged about 70, and often recently widowed.’
    • ‘Those who were widowed were free to re-marry; this was an entirely different issue.’
    • ‘Weir, who was known as Peggy to her neighbours, was widowed 10 years ago.’
    • ‘Women were also divided, with single and widowed women claiming a prior right to employment over married women.’
    • ‘He could have used the same tone of voice to convey his sympathies to a recently widowed aunt.’
    • ‘The male is considered the head of the household, except where it is headed by a divorced or widowed woman.’
    • ‘Add to that women who are divorced or widowed and there are now almost as many single women as there are married.’
    • ‘Life Loan is available to married couples, partners and single or widowed people.’
    • ‘Minus One is a social support group for separated, widowed or divorced people.’
    • ‘His reformist thinking was evident when he arranged for the remarriage of his young widowed daughter.’
    • ‘Fewer women are being chased from their homestead and land when widowed.’
    • ‘They are widowed, or have never married, and are generally childless.’
    • ‘The first time my mother was widowed, she was left with six male dependents.’
    • ‘She was surprisingly shy, considering the bold way she had recruited April as a foster mother when she became widowed.’
    • ‘At the moment, the group is small and comprises people who are divorced, separated or widowed.’
    • ‘Lennox had been widowed in 1986 when her husband Tom died at the age of 61 after a long illness.’
    • ‘Mrs Handley, of Highfield Avenue, Wortley, said the job became a lifeline after she was widowed five years ago.’
    • ‘Now widowed in her early 50s, she faces the future with some anxiety, despite the growing success of her work.’
    unmarried, single, unwed, unwedded
    View synonyms


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.