English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Not necessarily a virgin, but someone that has consciously chosen to stay single for life (and is content with that decision). Hopefully, there is a single word for it. Example: Ralph Nader

UPDATE: Apparently, there isn't a word for this. So, is anyone able to make up a word for this? Criteria:

  • Not in any relationship by choice
  • Not interested in ever being in a relationship
  • Very happy and content with that decision
  • Word should ideally be unambiguous and not have other connotations
share|improve this question
@Alenanno: youtube.com/watch?v=4UOd53l3kH0 – RiMMER Jul 3 '11 at 22:06
Is 'sensible' allowed? – Jonathan Leffler Sep 4 '11 at 2:45

15 Answers 15

I've heard "confirmed bachelor" for men. The only terms I've heard for women are somewhat derogatory ("old maid" or "spinster"). "Confirmed bachelorette" would be analogous but isn't common yet.

Edit based on comments: apparently "confirmed bachelor" has other connotations in some communities. I don't know how widespread that is; I'd never heard that before.

share|improve this answer
@GEdgar: I don't think I've heard "confirmed bachelorette", but I don't see why it wouldn't work. ("Bachelor" or "bachelorette" on its own doesn't convey a permanent decision, though, just the current state.) – Monica Cellio Jul 3 '11 at 21:47
Confirmed bachelor used to be a euphemism for gay. I'm pretty sure it's not entirely rehabilitated yet. – Marcin Jul 3 '11 at 21:49
@Monica: Agreed. Even with the word "confirmed" before it, the words "bachelor" or "bachelorette" imply "I'm still looking". I was referring to someone that realizes the costs of being in a relationship and is perfectly content to be single. – Homer6 Jul 3 '11 at 21:50
I'd say a bachelor is still looking, but a confirmed bachelor has stopped looking. – Peter Shor Jul 3 '11 at 21:58
@UpTheCreek a confirmed bachelor is someone who chooses to remain single - it doesn't mean they don't have relationships (see George Clooney), however they don't marry. Unfortunately, as has been noted, there are no comparable words for single women which aren't derogatory - 'confirmed bachelorette' hasn't quite yet caught on. – Darwy Jul 4 '11 at 11:53

Helen Fielding, author of Bridget Jones's Diary borrowed/coined/used the word singleton to fit this bill:

The main focus of plot is Bridget's love life. Her view divides the world into "Singletons," — unmarried and romantically unattached people, of whom she is one — and "Smug Marrieds," by whom she is surrounded.

Here she expounds on the term some in an interview with Ashton Applewhite:

Have men actually learned from it?
Smug Marrieds have, because nobody asks me whether I'm married any more. And no more patronizing comments from my married friends; their attitudes really have changed. It sounds rude to go to a Smug Married and say, "How's your marriage going, still having sex?", but not to go up to a Singleton and say, "How's your love life?" It's great if people realize that there isn't just one way to live. That's an old-fashioned concept, and I think it's losing its grip on us. Life in cities is very similar all over the world, and people do tend to live in urban families as much as in nuclear ones. They're not worse off or better off; the point is that it's no longer abnormal to be single.

One of the pleasures of reading Bridget is the vocabulary you invented. Do you have a favorite word or phrase?
I'm very pleased about the word "singleton," which of course wasn't my word. A friend made it up for a party: "singletons in one hotel, marrieds in another!" "Spinster" is horrible, with connotations of spinning wheels failure. "Singletons" a good word, and it applies to both men and women

share|improve this answer
That's funny! My programmer friend came up with the same answer. A "Singleton" in programming is an object that can only have one instance. So in nerdy circles, it's pretty funny. +1 for research, well written response and a good suggestion. – Homer6 Jul 7 '11 at 22:17
+1 for invoking the authority of Bridget Jones :-) – EleventhDoctor Sep 11 '13 at 9:39

I have, on occasion, heard such men being described using the term bachelor by choice.

share|improve this answer
+1 for useful contribution – Homer6 Jul 5 '11 at 4:20

A celibate is one who chooses to be single (or not have sex).

share|improve this answer
That's pretty close. But I think that has more to do with abstaining from having sex. And the choosing to be single is almost exclusively for religious reasons. dictionary.reference.com/browse/celibate – Homer6 Jul 3 '11 at 22:03
This strongly implies "abstaining from sex on religious grounds". That's not quite the same as "deciding not to get into a relationship so you can have sex with whoever you want"... – Neil Coffey Jul 3 '11 at 22:05
It's not "deciding not to get into a relationship so you can have sex with whoever you want". It's "deciding to be single because it's more enjoyable and a good life-long decision". There is no reference to sex. In fact, it would mean likely not having any sex. – Homer6 Jul 3 '11 at 22:15
@Neil - I'm my opinion it's not just on religious grounds. – UpTheCreek Jul 4 '11 at 11:08
+1: that was my first choice, too. The question doesn't give enough detail to be sure it's the right answer, but in any case where it matters it's likely to be the right one. – user1579 Jul 4 '11 at 18:04

I'm afraid you won't find a currently established word with all the connotations and meanings you require. I think celibate is the closest, because it's the only single-word-term that always has the connotation of choice. The downside to it is its inevitable reference to religion, and I perceive that you aren't looking for that connotation. So it fits with the first three of your criteria.

You'll probably have to make one up. Without the "gay" connotation (if it exists), I think confirmed bachelor/ette is the best proposal so far.

Volitional or discretionary bachelor/ette comes to mind.

For a single word - voluntagamus means literally choice-unmarried in Latin. But I doubt whether you could ever use a personally coined word.

share|improve this answer
+1 for useful contribution – Homer6 Jul 7 '11 at 22:14

Adding a new answer to address the new form of the question (coin a term, as opposed to finding an existing one):

Are you looking for "marriage-free", after the fashion of "child-free"? (I realize that not all relationships end in marriage, but "relationship-free" is too vague IMO. I think "marriage-free" would get the idea across nonetheless.)

BTW, "child-free" hasn't caught on universally, but among options for "no kids & don't want 'em" it's farther along than anything else, and this seems to be in the same general space.

share|improve this answer
+1 for great thoughts, again... "relationship-free" is pretty good actually. But it does have one potentially negative connotation: It sounds like, "I'm free from the pain that all you suckers have to endure by having a relationship." Which isn't totally apparent, but it may be interpreted that way. I think that if you describe something in terms of it "not being something else", then you may always get that connotation. Do you know what I mean? – Homer6 Jul 7 '11 at 22:09
This reminds me of the distinction of "freedom from" and "freedom to". I think of Freedom as really being the second one, whereas the first is only important to distinguish things we didn't want anyway. Why should we have to say what we don't want? Why should someone have to say they don't want children or a relationship? Default Assumptions are very annoying. Worse is when someone asks: "why don't you want that?" Well, that should never be a question. I can't explain not wanting something, only wanting it. It is like asking why it isn't sunny out. – no comprende May 9 at 16:06

One possible word is "nonogamist", formed from "nonogamy" in the same manner as "bigamist" is formed from "bigamy", or "monogamist" from "monogamy".

As noted in the -ist entry in wiktionary, suffix "-ist" can be "added to words to form nouns denoting ... one who follows a principle or system of belief." As "nonogamy" refers to not marrying, a "nonogamist" is a person who chooses not to marry.

Note that "nonogamist" suitably answers the original question asked, about "someone that [sic] has consciously chosen to stay single for life", but is perhaps not suitable with respect to "relationships" mentioned in the update. Perhaps "philononogamist", which actually is quite easy to say after about 14 tries, would serve. Also, note that those in the "nonogamy.livejournal.com community" would use "nonogamist" to mean pretty much what is spelled out in the update, but their usage may differ from more common usage.

The balance of this answer treats of "nonogamy", in an effort to show that while it apparently is not a standard dictionary word, it is a word that is in use in the English language.

For an older use of "nonogamy", see the Melbourne Punch publication, page 42, 9 Feb 1871, reprinted in Mr. Punch down under, 1982. Unfortunately the author of that item wrote Section XV in a sort of summary form, rather than in complete sentences; to wit: "Children considered from different points of view. ... Expediency of not having any. ... King Herod's system spoken of approvingly. ... The author's opinion. Wives. Polygamy, monogamy, nonogamy. Nonogamy recommended. Arguments in favour of polygamy. ... Monogamy unhesitatingly condemned. The opinions of all ages and one sex dead against it." (Ellipses mine.) It appears in this context that nonogamy means not married.

In a catholica.com.au forum, Stan Kopacz wrote "Considering the WW III nuclear landscape that marriage has become, I intend to stick with Nonogamy."

nonogamy.livejournal.com says, "This [nonogamy] community is for those of us that roll our eyes when we hear relationship stories. Those of us that don't feel we need to be paired off to be happy. We don't HATE love, but we do hate those that won't shut up about it already. Nonogamy means that we don't need love, sex,cuddling, dates, or valentine's day cards. Love is all well and good, but stop dwelling on it already."

This rgaffney blog apparently equates nonogamy with the concept, "nothing to do with marriage."

Some ignorati at democraticunderground.com make fun of the word, rather than giving it proper obeisance, in a thread called "Midthread quiz: Does "nonogamy" mean zero wives, nine wives, or wives who do "no-no"s?".

Urbandictionary offers two perhaps-ironic definitions of nonogamy somewhat at odds with meanings above: 1. An exclusive and ostensibly romantic relationship that is devoid of sex. 2. A sarcastic reference to modern monogamy in the developed world where sex is marginalized or disappears in a marriage [...]

share|improve this answer
+1 for thorough answer and providing an excellent candidate for a final answer. I don't know if this would be first, because of the ambiguity, but it may be a clear second. – Homer6 Sep 23 '11 at 16:17
up vote 2 down vote accepted

Ahaaa! I think I found it! Happily Single.

share|improve this answer
Well, single could be prefaced by any number of adverbs but this doesn't address your preference for a "single" word. – Callithumpian Jul 8 '11 at 16:31
That wasn't a major criteria. That's why I said "hopefully". – Homer6 Jul 8 '11 at 16:32
Maybe just 'Happy' then. – no comprende May 9 at 16:24

After much searching, it appears that the word is still "single". I don't find this to be a very appropriate word because it's ambiguous as to whether the person:

  1. Is not married
  2. Is not currently in a relationship
  3. Has consciously chosen to remain single for the remainder of their life

It appears there are two words that describe discrimination against all single people. According to Bella DePaulo, "People who stereotype, stigmatize, marginalize, or discriminate against people who are single are practicing singlism." Such a person would be called a singlist (see the singlist comments above by RiMMER).



share|improve this answer
Your #3 is a choice. Your #1 and #2 are circumstances. There is a really big difference. The question is about #3, and because it is a choice it needs a special word, but single already covers 1 and 2. You don't have to ask someone why they are not currently married when they wish to be: because they haven't found the right person yet. There is no point in asking the #3 person: they are not looking. Like asking a deaf person why they don't buy much music. – no comprende May 9 at 16:21

Greg Egan calls them asex in his novels such as Distress.

share|improve this answer
@downvoter: Care to elaborate, please? – CesarGon Jul 13 '11 at 0:25
+1 for good contribution – Homer6 Aug 26 '11 at 18:48
@CesarGon: If I remember that novel right, this wasn't really what asex meant. It described people who'd opted out of sex and (traditional) gender completely, but (spoiler warning — crucial plot point ahead!) they hadn't necessarily opted out of relationships. – PLL Sep 23 '11 at 2:34
@PLL: Well, asexes in Distress didn't have romantic or sexual relationships whatsoever. They were fine with friendship or some cuddling just for the sake of feeling good, but no sex or romance. There is a very specific passage about this when one asex gets naked for vis limerent other; maybe you recall. – CesarGon Sep 23 '11 at 18:21
@CesarGon: I was thinking of that very scene when I wrote my previous comment; but I’m remembering it (or perhaps interpreting it) differently. As I recall, its great import for Worth was the revelation that while Akili was not interested in sex, ve was certainly still interested in an asexual kind of romance. But it’s some years since I read the book; so I may be misremembering. A lovely book, in any case; I’m glad to have been reminded of it! – PLL Sep 23 '11 at 19:05

I've heard the word Omega used a lot, for males and females. Alpha males and females are the pack leaders, betas are of course followers and Omega are single, unaffiliated, lone wolves...

Sort of Indiana Jones mystique, which is quite classier a reference to attach oneself to than Bridget Jones ;)

share|improve this answer
+1 for good contribution – Homer6 Aug 26 '11 at 18:48
I think a lot of Alpha Males would have many 'relationships' if they could. It is not about status in a group, relationships are a separate issue. – no comprende May 9 at 16:23


a person who has withdrawn to a solitary place for a life of religious seclusion

share|improve this answer

"A celibate" is someone that has chosen not to get married for life.

share|improve this answer
No it isn’t. It someone who chooses not to have sex. There are completely unrelated, as any married many can tell you. – tchrist Aug 19 '12 at 2:36
@tchrist You might want to check the OED. – user867 Aug 28 '13 at 1:47

Formally, I haven't heard such a word. However, you can say a "loner" which means somebody who has not had many relationships, or doesn't like to get involved in a serious relationship, i.e. doesn't like commitment.

share|improve this answer
That's very derogatory. – Homer6 Jul 8 '11 at 21:01

Asexual aromantic
Not one word, I know...

A person who has no sexual nor romantic desires; someone who finds the act of sexual intercourse repulsive and shudders at the thought of kissing or cuddling another human being, regardless of their gender. Is therefore, in my mind, desirous to stay single and not form any long-term relationship with a companion, be it based on sexual gratification or on reciprocal affection and romanticism. Aromantics as described by AVEN, are people who "... do not lack emotional/personal connection, but simply have no instinctual need to develop connections of a romantic nature."

There is an interview with Jean Wilson, a sales assistant and divorced 63-year-old grandmother from Banbury who identifies herself as being an asexual aromantic, in the Daily Telegraph

'I let it slip one time at work that I’m an asexual aromantic [an asexual who is also not interested in making romantic attachments], and they think it’s absolutely hysterical,’

She lives with her divorced eldest son (who is aware of her asexuality) and his daughter. 'I really don’t need a close relationship, I don’t even need a best friend, and I’m quite happy the way I am.’

The newspaper then goes on to interview Prof Bogaert who

[...] found that about 70 per cent of asexual people were women. And asexuals are more likely than sexual people to stay single, he says, 'but some asexual people may still have nonsexual love or romantic bonds with partners’.

What is often hardest for 'sexuals’ to get their heads around is that this is not the same as sexual dysfunction or celibacy. Some asexuals are disgusted by the idea of sex and remain virgins for life, but others may masturbate and be capable of feeling pleasure sexually and having orgasms.

As further evidence that the term asexual aromantic (not asexual by itself) can also help describe a person who prefers to live alone but at the same time is not a loner and can cultivate friendships is this quote taken from The Guardian

Some of us are romantic and interested in intimate relationships. Others, like me, are aromantic and more solitary in nature. Some of us have a sex drive though it isn't directed at anyone, and others don't.

From the comments box this annotation

Society teaches us that sexual desire is normal, even expected, so for a very long time (before she had heard of asexuality applying to people) she thought that there was something wrong with her. She has also had to face a lot of pressure from family/friends/acquaintances about when she's going to find a boyfriend, get married, and have kids. She gets invasive questions (and behind her back speculation) about her sexuality from people who notice that she's been single for ever (are you gay, don't you want to try X, do you do Y). She finds herself in awkward situations with men when she's explained she is only looking for friendship but they think she's just playing hard to get. Even as a non invasive base line, the assumption by the majority is that she must be unhappy/lonely/unfulfilled because she is single.

share|improve this answer
Amazing how people feel so free to meddle in other people's private concerns. I have a cousin who had 11 babies. I haven't had any children. Who really cares? – no comprende May 9 at 16:13

protected by Daniel Nov 1 '11 at 18:31

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.