I'm confused as I've been googling a bit and have seen "dead husband", "former husband", ... and even "ex-husband"...

So what would you use for ______ in polite conversation:

The ______ of the woman in the big house down the street must've liked his gadgets a lot!


I like working in your garden because your ______ had all the tools I need.

I'm looking for one (or maybe two?) words that politely provide context.

  • 13
    We would typically say "the late husband of Mrs. X...". – Dan Bron Aug 30 '15 at 20:05
  • 9
    What's wrong with husband? In the first sentence, the use of widow makes it obvious that he's died; in the second sentence, it's just polite not to rub the widow's nose in his demise. And probably has should be had. – Andrew Leach Aug 30 '15 at 20:06
  • @AndrewLeach: Obviously. Corrected question to clarify that I'm looking for what to call "the dead guy" to give context. ;-) – Fabby Aug 30 '15 at 20:17
  • 2
    @Fabby I would still put husband in those spaces. – Andrew Leach Aug 30 '15 at 20:23
  • @DanBron Could you convert that to an answer as you're getting a lot of up-votes that are better spent on your rep then on a mere comment. – Fabby Aug 30 '15 at 20:32

My suggestions, having read the comments and agreeing with some.

The [late] husband of the woman in the big house down the street must've liked his gadgets a lot!

You can only omit 'late' if she has not remarried.

If you were/are a friend of the woman/couple then it is more tactful to use his name.

I like working in your garden because your James had all the tools I need.

If you are employed as a gardener then either you wouldn't know that her husband was deceased or she would explain something like, "These are my late husband's tools." In that case you simply use the same phrase that she used.

  • Googling for +James +"Late husband" gives me 1510 obituaries.... Might James be local language for late husband? (I'm looking for a polite term that provides context) Editing Question to clarify... – Fabby Aug 30 '15 at 20:37
  • No - It's an ordinary name, I'll amend my answer. – chasly from UK Aug 30 '15 at 20:38
  • It would help if you explained the relationships between the people involved. Are they relatives? Employees? – chasly from UK Aug 30 '15 at 21:00
  • I suppose the majority has voted... Accepted and upvoted! (And to answer your question: it's just a theoretical question: I'm not a gardener, nor do I have a specific English-speaking lady on my mind... ;-) – Fabby Sep 1 '15 at 20:54

In addition to "late husband", answered by chasly, I suggest "deceased husband" which sounds better than "departed" or "defunct" and is more "polite" than "dead" as you would like.

deceased - no longer living; dead.

  • 1
    deceased is, perhaps, better than dead, but it is pretty brusque and clinical. Departed is a euphemism for dead and is so because it alludes to the person "passing on" to a new stage of existence rather than ceasing to exist which may be of comfort to survivors. – Jim Aug 30 '15 at 22:42
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    +1 Framed as "her husband, now deceased," the wording deceased sounds not at all abrupt or harsh to me. But one person's delicacy is another's coarseness, I guess. – Sven Yargs Aug 31 '15 at 0:12

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