Take the 2-minute tour ×
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 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.

4  
My first result from Google was The free dictionary - unmarried woman, which lists synonyms. What did you find lacking in these definitions? –  Matt 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 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.

source

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
1  
@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.