There are a lot of widow questions here on SE.

My same-sex partner has passed away, and today I referred to myself as a widower. But it appears in the Collins English Dictionary that a widower is a man whose wife has died and who has not remarried. It also has a very heavy connotation that I was married to a woman.

Is it exclusively any man who loses a partner is a widower, and any woman (even should she be in a same-sex marriage) who loses a spouse is a widow? Is there another term more appropriate for me to use?

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    Historical use can guide us, but only collective, continuing use will define these terms going forward. I would expect anyone who identifies as a man and loses a spouse to be called a widower, and anyone who identifies as a woman and loses a spouse to be called a widow. Time will tell whether or not my prediction is accurate.
    – Davo
    Commented Apr 14, 2017 at 18:01
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    @Davo - thanks, I was unsure whether that assumption had been modified by new terminology or expectations of what each word meant.
    – Mikey
    Commented Apr 14, 2017 at 18:04
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    Google claims over 9000 instances of gay widower, and I expect most of them refer to "same-sex" bereaved. The gender implications of -er apply to the surviving partner - there's nothing other than "statistical average" telling you what sex the deceased was. Which puts widowed lesbians at a linguistic disadvantage, I guess, since gay widows might often refer to cougars Commented Apr 14, 2017 at 18:05
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    In my area, widower is actually rare to hear; both man and woman will rather refer to themselves as a widow if they have lost a spouse. Perhaps this could be seen as a sign of a trend towards gender neutral language. Otherwise, you could simply use the verb: I was widowed.
    – Kasenjo
    Commented Apr 14, 2017 at 18:07
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    @FumbleFingers why would gay widow and cougars have anything in common? Cougars are older women looking for young men - where is the gay and widow part?
    – mplungjan
    Commented Apr 15, 2017 at 7:28

4 Answers 4


@Davo6 is right above that these terms are being expanded from their original context and time will tell how they end up being applied.

At the moment, widower is the term for a bereaved male spouse and widow his female equivalent. The male term is much less common, but male survivors of mixed-sex marriages are much less common. If you don't like the noun, there's always the plain adjective bereaved.

You're right about the connotations... but marriage itself has those connotations to some and, even where it doesn't any longer, it did until recently. You are part of the first generation to deal with this part of the human experience in the open. You can choose any term you like and the rest of us will just share our condolences on your loss.


Maybe you could say "I am widowed" to show you have lost your spouse, but to avoid the gender complications of "a widow" and "a widower".


I am widowed, male, and gay. This thread is interesting, a bit painful, and confounding. Of course, collective, continuing use will prevail, but as a relatively new social development - to have legally married people whose same-sex partners have died - what becomes common will depend in part on what we claim. I submit this post to add resonance for making the term 'widow' gender-neutral. I am not a widower because I didn't lose a wife; I lost a partner. Perhaps the term 'widower' will evaporate into insignificance as all of us who live on after our partners have died become 'widows.'


W is used to refer to a woman, wife, widow, widower. I suggest having a word that uses G. Perhaps Gaysur, Gay survivor of a marriage. Thus, I am a Gaysur!

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    "Woman" comes from "wife-man" but "widow/widower" are more etymologically related to "wood" than they are "woman/wife" (not to mention the fact that a widower is traditionally a man). Without any evidence that it's used, I don't think that "gaysur" is a good alternative. (The meaning certainly isn't obvious.)
    – Laurel
    Commented Sep 12, 2022 at 18:46
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    Gay survivor of a marriage suggests that marriage was some form of conflict that you've managed to survive. That might be true for you but not for everyone. Commented Sep 12, 2022 at 18:47
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    @Laurel: It is worth noting that when the term meaning "wife-man" was applied in OE, it used man not in the male sense but in the human sense, and was used for men and women; wer was the term meaning a male person (cf. werewolf). The term man meaning what we use it to mean today (mostly) did not get fixed until the 13th century.
    – Robusto
    Commented Sep 12, 2022 at 18:52
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