What would you call someone whose unmarried partner has passed away? If they were married, the word would be widow(er). Ex-partner/ex-boy/girlfriend doesn't seem to fit either because the two never broke up, except their partner is dead so they aren't technically together anymore.


There's no word with the specific meaning of a person who has lost a girlfriend or boyfriend, but you can use the word bereaved. This can be used for the loss of anyone close, including close friends and other family members.

Normally this is used when the death was relatively recent, and the person is still suffering from the loss.

"The bereaved will need the support of her friends during this difficult time."

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  • I agree with this answer, though I'd note that "bereaved" connotes (to me, at least) that the two had been together in a long-term relationship equivalent to a marriage, which I think is the context of the OP. Surviving partner (mentioned in other comments) is slightly more specific but otherwise equivalent. Both are relatively formal. If it were just a casual short-term relationship, I would just use "boy/girlfriend". – Richter65 Nov 7 '19 at 16:37
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    @Richter65 I disagree that it has any such connotation. As evidence, airlines offer bereavement fares to what I would call extended family members. Delta helpfully provides a list of relationships that can qualify as "bereaved" for the purpose of special airfare. – StackOverthrow Nov 7 '19 at 17:00
  • @No U: that's why "surviving partner" is more specific; "bereaved" only connotes a close relationship. But in the context in the OP, that relationship is a partner, and therefore (to me) bereaved connotes a long-term "married in all but name" relationship in this particular situation. – Richter65 Nov 7 '19 at 17:04
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    The problem is that there isn't any word that specifically means "person whose boyfriend/girlfriend died." So you compromise. – barbecue Nov 7 '19 at 17:31
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    "Bereaved" to me also connotes a relatively recent loss, though I guess that isn't inherent in the definition. – Russell Borogove Nov 8 '19 at 3:45

Survivor. Source: WordWeb. Surviving partner, as Mari-Lou A says, would be a more formal version.

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    This is correct, but also likely subject to misinterpretation. My first assumption when hearing the person spoken of this way would be that both partners were involved in a potentially fatal situation of some sort (car crash, etc.) and that only one of them survived. Surviving partner actually sounds less misdirecting here. – R.. GitHub STOP HELPING ICE Nov 7 '19 at 12:58
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    @R. I disagree that this is correct. I don't think many (or possibly any) people would use "survivor" for this. It will always require clarification unless a lot of context is provided. Hard to believe it got so many upvotes... – user91988 Nov 7 '19 at 15:49
  • +1 This answer is correct, however it is INCREDIBLY formal, and usually used to refer to family. This would be common in an obituary, but definitely not in casual conversation. – ThunderGuppy Nov 7 '19 at 19:56
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    Incorrect - a survivor of a deceased implies a decedent. If two people are not part of the same family tree (married or not) the deceased is only "survived" through any offspring. This is an issue dealing with genetics, not memory and most people do not comprehend that context. – John Nov 8 '19 at 9:49

Colloquially, I have heard widow(er) being used for long-standing unmarried relationships just as well as for married ones. The significance of official marriage in regards to everyday language seems to have declined quite a bit.

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Rather archaic (I've only ever seen it used on tombstones), but relict was also used for 'common law' widows/widowers as well as legally married ones.

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