Black widower: He mates then she dies.

Could somebody please help me understand this terminology?

Widow makes sense: He is dead, she lives on.
Widower doesn’t make sense: Shouldn’t this describe the one who creates the widow? Instead of defining the man who survives after his wife dies.

I understand the English language is rife with idioms and euphemisms, all I ask is for a rational explanation to this illogical nomenclature.


everyone else calls her a Black widow. Maybe you have a different version of the Discovery Channel where you live

Not quite what he meant, Tap.

The confusion stems from assuming a modern meaning for the “-er” suffix, Ben. According to this etymology, it was a 14th Century coinage–a change from “widewe” to “widewer”. Apparently “widewe” was used for both male and female in the preceding four centuries. The “-r” suffix is likely a corruption of the “-estre” suffix, which (although denoting a feminine term in Old English) became masculine in Middle English.

Does that help?

According to my copy of the American Heritage Dictionary, widow comes from the Middle English word widewe, which in turn is derived from the Old English widuwe. Widower is derived from the Middle English widewer, which is derived from widewe.

So ends the factual discussion. My WAG is that in Middle English, the -er suffix (or just the -r) is used to “masculinify” a word (or, perhaps the opposite is true - without said suffix, the word is feminized; however, widewe is listed as the common root, so I think the former is more likely).

[Upon preview, I see that Balance has said as much. I guess my WAG wasn’t so W after all, eh? But, dammit, I typed this all out, so I’m going to submit it anyway!]

“Holy run-on sentence Batman!”

I can make an unholy one, if you prefer :smiley:

Darwin’s Finch: Unholy run-on sentences are much more fun! I thank you for your response and didn’t mean to sound ungrateful :slight_smile: