_____[49] – n. parent who outlives a child:

Are the words orphan and widow just vestiges from a time when they were classes of people who required legal guardians to take control of their finances and property? Would the English language have names for a _____[49] a _____[74], a semi_____[74], and a _____[41] if they were legal entities that required custodial care?

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Penny Gold
4 years ago

I am in this category myself, so I have thought much about the absence of this word. Difficult as it is for me to be in this unnamed state, I think that the normality of child-death in the pre-industrial world helps explain it. The unusual thing, given high child mortality rates, would be to see all one’s children live into full adulthood, not to have one or more predecease the parents.

Nicole Harris
4 years ago

I am currently reading Thirteen Ways of Looking by Colum McCann. One of the stories, “Sh’khol”, contains this passage: “A novella had arrived from the publisher in Tel Aviv eight months before, a beautifully written story by an Arab Israeli from Nazareth: an important piece of work, she thought. She had begun immediately to translate it, the story of a middle-aged couple who had lost their two children. She had come upon the phrase sh’khol. She cast around for a word translated, but there was no proper match. There were words, of course, for widow, widower, and orphan, but none,… Read more »