My wife passed away last year and that means when I’m filling out forms or answering questions I must describe myself as a “widower”. I hate that term - it sounds like it means someone who makes someone else into a widow, i.e., a widow maker, e.g., someone who goes about murdering women’s husbands. If I certify you I’m a certifier, if I denounce you I’m a denouncer, if I mystify you I’m a mystifier, if I exploit you I am an exploiter. And in each case you become whatever the verb implies, i.e., certified, denounced, mystified and exploited.
The only explanation I’ve seen for “widower” on the web seemed rather convoluted and reaching - professional and trade roles often ended in “-er” (e.g., painter, builder, lawyer, professor, etc) and since only men had jobs and professions in the old days, “er” became a signifier for male. I agree that men had the professions and vocations but it’s not clear that “er” was a uniquely male ending (women could be homemakers, housekeepers, lovers, sisters, mothers, etc). When women did enter the workforce, with a few exceptions (aviatrix, actress), they generally got the “er” ending - writer, painter, protester, worker, riveter, etc for their new roles. Furthermore, the verb portion of occupations like painter, builder, farmer, professor describes something you do, not something you are. In other words, using that logic, “widow” is something I do, not something I am., which brings us back to the original problem.
So I’m unconvinced by the above explanation. Would anyone care to be my enlightener? I’ll be your thanker in advance.