Sign up ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

An unmarried male is called a bachelor. Is there an English word for an unmarried female?

share|improve this question

closed as general reference by Matt E. Эллен, JoseK, Mehper C. Palavuzlar, Daniel, Alenanno Oct 5 '11 at 12:28

This question is too basic; it can be definitively and permanently answered by a single link to a standard internet reference source designed specifically to find that type of information.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

My first result from Google was The free dictionary - unmarried woman, which lists synonyms. What did you find lacking in these definitions? – Matt E. Эллен Oct 5 '11 at 11:06
@MattЭллен - They are kinda lame? IMHO only the first of the three even comes close to a good answer, and it is a recent loan word from Spanish. – T.E.D. Oct 5 '11 at 17:55
@T.E.D I was more dismayed about the lack of research shown in the question. I agree that the definitions in the link are below par. If nicholas shows us what he already knows by editing the question and putting some effort in, then I will gladly vote to reopen. – Matt E. Эллен Oct 5 '11 at 18:23
@Alenanno Strange that it has been closed as the inconclusive answers given so far have revealed that the question cannot be easily answered by a standard internet reference as has been stated below. – nicholas ainsworth Oct 5 '11 at 21:14
Bachelorette seems to be specifically American, spinster seems inappropriate as could be offensive and maiden is too general. I found the same problem with the synonyms on the net. Is there not some type of legal definition? – nicholas ainsworth Oct 5 '11 at 21:29

3 Answers 3

Bachelorette is an American English term for an unmarried woman. A bachelorette may have once been in a marriage or pair bonding relationship that produced children in her past. The term is derived from the word bachelor.


share|improve this answer

The word is "spinster", but it has completely different connotations. "Bachelor" often implies "young, free and single" whereas "spinster" often is more "lonely, old, left-on-the-shelf".

share|improve this answer
This is the technically correct term. If it is not suitable, I suggest the OP explains the context for which he needs to know. – Urbycoz Oct 5 '11 at 11:12
@Urbycoz I can't think of a contemporary context in which the word "spinster" would be suitable. – onomatomaniak Oct 5 '11 at 11:41
@onomatomaniak it's still used on marriage licenses (at least in the UK) if the women hasn't been married before. – mgb Oct 5 '11 at 16:41

Maiden is also acceptable though somewhat ambiguous and antiquated.
According to part of the Online Etymology Dictionary entry on maiden:

... fem. variant of PIE base *maghu- "youngster of either sex, unmarried person" (cf. O.E. magu "child, son," Avestan magava- "unmarried," O.Ir. maug "slave").

share|improve this answer
The problem with this is that it is not applicable to a divorced or widowed single woman. Ultimately the word was intended to be reserved for virgins. Most dictionary definitions dance around this without actually coming out and saying it. – T.E.D. Oct 5 '11 at 17:53
@T.E.D.: 'bachelor' is not used for divorced or widowed male either. – Mitch Oct 5 '11 at 18:22
@Mitch - I've seen it used that way quite often. – T.E.D. Oct 5 '11 at 19:32

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