Word Origin & History
O.E. widewe, widuwe, from P.Gmc. *widewo (cf. O.S. widowa, O.Fris. widwe, M.Du., Du. weduwe, Du. weeuw, O.H.G. wituwa, Ger. Witwe, Goth. widuwo), from PIE adj. *widhewo (cf. Skt. vidhuh "lonely, solitary," vidhava "widow;" Avestan vithava, L. vidua, O.C.S. vidova, Rus. vdova, O.Ir. fedb, Welsh guedeu
"widow;" Pers. beva, Gk. eitheos "unmarried man;" L. viduus "bereft, void"), from base *weidh- "to separate" (cf. second element in L. 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. The verb is attested from c.1300. Widower is first attested mid-14c. 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 ref. to the long black tail feathers of the males, suggestive of widows' veils.