Q From Richard Blair, Sydney, Australia: In the movie Sleepless in Seattle (that I recently saw again) the Meg Ryan character muses over the Tom Hanks character, whose wife has recently and suddenly died, that he has become a widower. She says that a widow is widowed, but a widower is also widowed. She wonders, why not widowered? Any thoughts?
A Strictly speaking, widowered exists, as does widowerhood, the state of being a widower. The Oxford English Dictionary has two nineteenth-century examples of the former. Thomas Hardy used it in a satirical poem entitled The Coronation, written in May 1910 when George V was about to be crowned; in it he described Henry VIII as “much self-widowered”.
I’ve turned up a few other examples, but it is true to say that in British and Commonwealth English widowered is extremely rare. It is, so far as I can tell, a smidgen less so in the US. It appeared, to take one case, in a review of the film Boynton Beach Club in the Chicago Sun-Times in August 2006: “Here he meets Harry, who takes him under his widowered wing with personal cooking lessons and dating advice.”
There’s nothing wrong with the word in itself — its form follows the rules of English grammar. It’s less common, though, largely because widower is less often used than widow, but also because the unstressed er in the middle of widowered is so easily lost.
Search World Wide Words
Recently added or updated
Ampersand; Phizzog; Horse creature; Get one’s goat; Mammock; Mx; Stepney; Vape; No names, no pack drill; Bridegroom; Lilly-low; The Language Myth by Vyvyan Evans; Boot and trunk; Zoilism; Fish-faced; Poach; Immensikoff.
Support World Wide Words!
Donate via PayPal. Select your currency from the list and click Donate.
Buy from Amazon and get me a small commission at no cost to you. Select your preferred site and click Go!