Garrison Keillor introduced the term "Norwegian bachelor farmer," which is a bit like the male equivalent of spinster.

Is there a male equivalent of spinster that works in the UK? I considered "confirmed bachelor" but rejected it as too neutral.

For reference, some definitions:

Spinster: An unmarried woman, typically an older woman beyond the usual age for marriage. In modern everyday English, spinster cannot be used to mean simply ‘unmarried woman’; it is now always a derogatory term, referring or alluding to a stereotype of an older woman who is unmarried, childless, prissy, and repressed. (Oxford)

Norwegian bachelor farmers: A group of unmarried men who live on the outskirts of town and have little to no social skills or hygiene habits. (lakewobegon.wikia.com)

confirmed: (of a person) firmly established in a particular habit, belief, or way of life and unlikely to change their ways. ‘a confirmed bachelor’; ‘a confirmed teetotaller’ (Oxford)

Note: I don't care whether it's a single word, a phrase, an idiom -- anything is fine. I have tentatively created a general term request tag for these situations. If the moderators are not happy about the tag, I trust they will edit my tags and remove the new tag I made.

  • The male equivalent of 'spinster' is 'bachelor' - and always has been. The 'Norwegian bachelor farmer with no social skills and poor hygiene' sounds like a tramp.
    – Nigel J
    Apr 22, 2018 at 5:21
  • Is Keillor’s term in use other than describing bachelor farmers of Scandinavian descent living on the outskirts of the town of Lake Wobegone, where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking and all of the children are above average?
    – Spagirl
    Apr 22, 2018 at 12:38
  • @NigelJ - I have never seen "bachelor" taken to include elderly, prissy or repressed. // Norwegian bachelor farmers don't sit around the coffee shop all day. They also go home and do their farm work. Apr 22, 2018 at 12:58
  • @Spagirl - It doesn't have to be widely used, to be widely understood. The point is that although I think it's fairly well understood in the US, I doubt it's understood in the UK, and I'd like to find a term that is understood in the UK. If the term proposed is also understood in the US, so much the better. Apr 22, 2018 at 13:44
  • 1
    @aparente001 I didn’t ask if it was ‘widely used’. I asked if it was used outside of the context of Keillor’s creation. The definition on the Lake Wobegone wiki is particular to that setting so takes us no further. Having googled further it does seem to be used in talking about the difficulty of sustaining prairie-edge farming because women in the prairie states mostly don’t want to marry only isolated farms. It’s a term particular to a geographic, social and economic as well as marital state. It isn’t a straightforward equivalent of ‘spinster’.
    – Spagirl
    Apr 22, 2018 at 13:57

1 Answer 1


Just ‘single man’. Or ‘singleton’ if that’s not already out of fashion.

Singleton being a c. 80s-90s pop word as in ‘young singletons’ for example describing the young flat-sharers in the series ‘Friends’.

Norwegian bachelor farmer is apparently derogative. Spinster is neutral, as is single man.

Well, to be more precise, spinster is officially ‘neutral’ - you might see ‘married/spinster?’ on an official form. But it does carry a slightly sad, careworn feel. And it has become more ‘derogatory’ over time. A ‘spin-ster’ originates from ‘a woman who spins’ which is what women did, continually, for centuries, to make the enormous amount of yarn needed in households for cotton sheets etc, (which were then woven).


Another option is ‘unmarried man’.

  • 'Spinster' is considered somewhat disparaging, definitely not neutral.
    – Mitch
    Apr 21, 2018 at 23:14
  • To me 'singleton' describes a person with no siblings, not necessarily an unmarried one.
    – BoldBen
    Apr 21, 2018 at 23:19
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    Norwegian bachelor farmer is comedy; it's not "a term". :)
    – Lambie
    Apr 21, 2018 at 23:37
  • 1
    How do you get that spinster is neutral in 2018? The premise of the whole question is that it isn't neutral; and I documented that assumption. Apr 22, 2018 at 0:07
  • @Jelila Really, you should believe every etymology you read online. snopes.com/fact-check/life-in-the-1500s
    – Spagirl
    Apr 22, 2018 at 13:28

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