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What is the word for an unmarried female?

What is the word for an unmarried female? The above closed question is unanswered as bachelorette implies both unmarried and divorced/widowed. Spinster is for old women.

Bachelor is a never-married man.

Is there no such female equivalent of bachelor?

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marked as duplicate by FumbleFingers, Kristina Lopez, cornbread ninja 麵包忍者, Lynn, Kris Feb 1 '13 at 6:46

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Bachelor does not mean never married. It just means single. –  dnagirl Jan 30 '13 at 12:25
3  
Why not just use "unmarried"? –  Tom O'Connor Jan 30 '13 at 12:31
    
After going through all the answers, I conclude there is no such female equivalent of bachelor! –  Aad Jan 31 '13 at 11:05

3 Answers 3

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Spinster isn't for old women, but it certainly would be more often used for that, and has a connotation of having failed to get a husband, rather than being happily unmarried.

Bachelorette is sometimes used solely for "unmarried" but does indeed sometimes include divorcées and widows. It's rarely used (was popular from about the 1930s through to the 1960s) and often considered patronising.

"Bachelor girl" is older than bachelorette, and generally only for never-married. It is now rare.

There isn't an exact equivalent, because the English language is influenced by thousands of years in which the status of different sexes both within and outside of marriage was not one of parity.

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2  
Yeah - somebody oughta sue the English Language. –  Edwin Ashworth Jan 30 '13 at 12:41
    
Spinster is actually the legal term for an unmarried woman. The 'old' connotation has grown over the years. –  ElendilTheTall Jan 30 '13 at 12:45
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@EdwinAshworth: Bet we could make it a class action: ELU v. The English Language. –  Callithumpian Jan 30 '13 at 13:12
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For that matter, who actually uses "bachelor" or anything like that in the modern world, anyway? I can't think of a single time I've cared a whit about anyone's martial status except if I was planning to marry them, planning to divorce them, paying a lawyer to change my own, or at least entertaining the thought of sleeping with them in the near future (the possible bachelor or bachelorette that is, not the lawyer; that would mess up the client-lawyer relationship). –  Jon Hanna Jan 30 '13 at 19:04
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@JonHanna - I would be concerned about someone's "martial status" <g> if I were a recruiting officer... –  MT_Head Jan 30 '13 at 21:47

An archaic term for this is maid. It is not very often used in that meaning any more though, and I would not recommend it. The online Merriam-Webster defines it as:

maid noun \ˈmād\

Definition of MAID

  1. an unmarried girl or woman, especially when young : virgin

  2. a : maidservant

    b : a woman or girl employed to do domestic work

Maiden is similar but that refers specifically to virginity.

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I'm surprised that the senses are listed here in that order (as indeed they are at AHDEL and Collins). Collins does at least add the archaic qualifier to the entry for the unmarried girl or woman polyseme. I'd have thought that (modern) relevance should determine order of senses. –  Edwin Ashworth Jan 30 '13 at 14:43
    
Well, they've [probably been copying over the same entry since 1812 or so. –  terdon Jan 30 '13 at 14:47
    
@EdwinAshworth but is it the sense of the word that's archaic, or the assumption that any respectable woman who wasn't married would still be a maid? –  Jon Hanna Jan 30 '13 at 15:24
    
This probably explains why Robin Hood's camp was never all that tidy, despite the attentions of Maid Marian. –  MT_Head Jan 30 '13 at 19:16
    
@MT_Head I think you misread her name. She was made Marian, she was actually born Abigail. –  terdon Jan 30 '13 at 19:25

If you can draw some assumptions from the definition (below), "mistress" could be used. (Primarily, if a woman is the head of a household, she is likely - or traditionally - unmarried.)

From [M-W-com]:1

1: a woman who has power, authority, or ownership: as

a: the female head of a household

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Many royal mistresses have been married, either for convenience or propriety, and in general life mutual infidelities aren't that uncommon either - so if you meant mistress in the sense of "a woman having an affair with a married man", I don't think you can rely on it to signify her own marital status. –  MT_Head Jan 30 '13 at 19:21
    
@MT_Head - thanks - I added a specific definition to back my answer. –  Kristina Lopez Jan 30 '13 at 19:37

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