grass widow

grass widow
n.
1. A woman who is divorced or separated from her husband.
2. A woman whose husband is temporarily absent.
3. An abandoned mistress.
4. The mother of a child born out of wedlock.
[Perhaps in allusion to a bed of grass or hay.]
Word History: Grass widow is first recorded in 1528, and originally referred to an unmarried woman who has lived with one or more men, a discarded mistress, or a woman who has borne a child out of wedlock. The grass in grass widow seems to have originally made reference to the makeshift bed of grass or hay (as opposed to a real bed with a mattress and sheets) on which a woman might lie with her lover before he rises and abandons her—leaving her a widow, so to speak, in the grass. Throughout the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, grass and the color green in general had sexual connotations, in allusion to the green stains left on clothing after rolling in the grass. (The lyrics of the 16th-century song Greensleeves, for example, give voice to the sufferings of an abandoned lover.) By the middle of the 19th century, however, grass widow had come to refer mainly to a wife whose husband is temporarily absent or one who is living apart from her husband. In colonial India, for example, it was used of British women who, during the hot season, went off to enjoy the cool of the hills while their husbands were stuck at their jobs in the heat of the plains. Although the reason for the change in meaning is not known with any certainty, people may have interpreted the grass in grass widow as equivalent to pasture, as in the expression out to pasture. Nowadays, the term grass widow can also refer to a wife who has separated from her husband and to a divorced woman.

Word Histories. 2014.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Grass widow — Grass Grass, n. [OE. gras, gres, gers, AS, gr[ae]s, g[ae]rs; akin to OFries. gres, gers, OS., D., G., Icel., & Goth. gras, Dan. gr[ae]s, Sw. gr[aum]s, and prob. to E. green, grow. Cf. {Graze}.] 1. Popularly: Herbage; the plants which constitute… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Grass widow — Widow Wid ow (w[i^]d [ o]), n. [OE. widewe, widwe, AS. weoduwe, widuwe, wuduwe; akin to OFries. widwe, OS. widowa, D. weduwe, G. wittwe, witwe, OHG. wituwa, witawa, Goth. widuw[=o], Russ. udova, OIr. fedb, W. gweddw, L. vidua, Skr. vidhav[=a];… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • grass widow — A grass widow is a woman whose husband is often away on work, leaving her on her own …   The small dictionary of idiomes

  • grass widow — 1520s, originally discarded mistress (Cf. Ger. Strohwitwe, lit. straw widow ), probably in reference to casual bedding. Sense of married woman whose husband is absent is from 1846. [G]rasse wydowes ... be yet as seuerall as a barbours chayre and… …   Etymology dictionary

  • grass widow — n. [Early ModE, discarded mistress (similar to Du grasweduwe, Ger strohwittwe): prob. allusion is to bed of grass or straw as opposed to the conjugal bed] 1. a woman divorced or otherwise separated from her husband 2. a woman whose husband is… …   English World dictionary

  • grass widow —    a woman of marriageable age separated for an extended period from her husband    The derivation is from the grass of the hill stations to which wives were sent during the Indian hot season, or a corruption of grace widow? Originally it might… …   How not to say what you mean: A dictionary of euphemisms

  • grass widow — noun a woman whose husband is away often or for a prolonged period. Origin C16 (denoting an unmarried woman with a child): from grass + widow, perh. from the idea of a couple having lain on the grass instead of in bed …   English new terms dictionary

  • grass widow —    A grass widow is a woman whose husband is often away on work, leaving her on her own.   (Dorking School Dictionary) …   English Idioms & idiomatic expressions

  • Grass widow —   A grass widow is a woman whose husband is often away on work, leaving her on her own …   Dictionary of English idioms

  • grass widow — grass′ wid′ow n. 1) a woman who is separated, divorced, or lives apart from her husband 2) a woman whose husband is often away from home 3) Chiefly Dial. a) a mistress who has been cast aside b) a woman who has borne an illegitimate child •… …   From formal English to slang

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