Have you ever noticed that, when you're typing something into a document and your paragraph exceeds the page length, two lines drop down to the next page? That's because typographers consider it less readable when there is just one line dangling on a page, due to there being too much white space. The technical terms for those single lines on the top or bottom of a page are widow and orphan, respectively (a mnemonic used to remember this is an orphan has no past, a widow has no future). Some publishers use one of these terms for both instances, or do the opposite, as there is no real consensus. The Oxford English Dictionary shows orphan as being around since the 1980s, and widow being used for almost a century before that, starting as widdy and ultimately having an unknown origin.
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a junior studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy trivia, politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.