The word "widow" is for women, while the male version adds "-er" onto it.

I can't think of any other words in English that does this. There's words where male and female have different endings ("actor" versus "actress"), and cases where you specify maleness by putting "male" at the front ("male nurse", "male prostitute", "male geisha"), but nothing where you take an existing word, fail to remove anything, and then add some suffix. Are there any such words?

  • 9
    There is the bridegroom.
    – Helmar
    Commented Sep 14, 2016 at 11:29
  • To be pedantic, and where else can you expect to be, the '-er' may very well not be a suffix. It looks like it, but it could be the word forms came from differently inflected forms, viz. German cognates Witwer/Witwe (just different masculine and feminine endings)
    – Mitch
    Commented Sep 14, 2016 at 17:24
  • @Helmar. One could contest that "groom" is a suffix. I would call "bridegroom" a compound.
    – fdb
    Commented Sep 15, 2016 at 22:10
  • 1
    Related: Why is a woman a “widow” and a man a “widower”?
    – herisson
    Commented Nov 13, 2017 at 7:04

1 Answer 1


According to An Easy English Grammar for Beginners (1864):

There are three words in the English language which derive the masculine form from the feminine. These are widower, gander, and drake. Widow, in Old English, is both masculine and feminine, as the word spouse still is ; but, as the word widow came to be used solely of women, the need of some distinction was felt, and er was added for the masculine. The old form for goose was gans or gand. Add the masculine ending er, and we have gander. The old word for duck was and; add the masculine suffix rake, and we have andrake, which is the old form of the word. It was then shortened into drake.

  • 7
    That's from the easy grammar? I wonder what the hard one has.
    – Mitch
    Commented Sep 15, 2016 at 17:31

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