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Specifically, a woman who is single at a late age. "Late bachelorette", "late singleness"... It doesn't sound right.

Is there a way to describe it as an adjective and also as a noun?

I am asking because I am trying to translate an article from another language.

Edit: After reading the commenmts, I understand that some further clarification is needed. I was trying to find a term for someone who has never been married and has already passed the "culturally accepted marriage age" for lack of better term.

I was looking for a descriptive, nonjudgmental and nonpejorative term. The term I was trying to translate was originally in Hebrew - רווקות מאוחרת, which according to Google Translate, translates to Late bachelorhood but I wasn't sure it is correct.
I understand that this is a highly cultural dependent question that carries some weight and was looking for various options from multiple English-speaking cultures.

The article I was reading, by the way, was about people in modern societies choosing to stay single even after the "culturally accepted" marriage age and the various reasons behind it.

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  • 18
    You will need to be careful about the tone. Do you want a term that is neutral? Or that implies the person is somehow a failure because they never married? Or even that they are somehow superior because they are unmarried?
    – Boba Fit
    Nov 10, 2022 at 18:41
  • @BobaFit completely neutral, non judgemental in any way...
    – Michael
    Nov 11, 2022 at 8:30
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    Out of curiosity – what was the original word you were trying to translate?
    – MC Emperor
    Nov 11, 2022 at 9:07
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    @MCEmperor the article was in Hebrew, and the word was "רווקות מאוחרת" which in Google Translate is translated to "Late bachelorhood"
    – Michael
    Nov 11, 2022 at 10:15
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    @Michael What are the nuances of that Hebrew term that you want in the English term? Is it slightly pejorative? Is it part of the term that they are interested (or not at all interested) in making a relationship? Does the age have to be -in- the phrasing, or simply implied eg "woman of a certain age"? etc etc. What is the context in the original? Is the phrasing in Hebrew a new term there for a new sociological phenomenon? Is the phrase simply descriptive? So many nuances..please add to your question.
    – Mitch
    Nov 11, 2022 at 14:59

5 Answers 5

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If you mean those who have never married, you can hyphenate it. The Social Security Administration (SSA) uses never-married as an adjective (never-married retirees) and the never-married as a noun, an adjectival noun (like the poor or the elderly).

This article focuses on a growing yet understudied subgroup of the elderly in the United States—the never-married. The first section, based on data from the Current Population Survey and a review of the academic literature, examines the current circumstances of never-married retirees, particularly their economic and health well-being.

[ssa.gov]

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The traditional term for a woman who has never been married is "spinster". While it technically applies to women of any age, it is more associated with older single women. It's not frequently used these days because it carries some bad associations, but it does accurately describe the situation you are talking about.

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  • Adjectives from AHD - spinsterish, spinsterly Nov 10, 2022 at 16:20
  • Thanks, I am looking for more "academic" appropriate word. But I understand there's no such word
    – Michael
    Nov 10, 2022 at 16:44
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    The source of the word is... Strange. It refers to the frequent occupation of single adult women of spinning wool into yarn. Thus spin-ster.
    – Boba Fit
    Nov 10, 2022 at 18:39
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    For a while, I was determined to be a spinster in both senses of the word, but I discovered that spinning is just not my thing.
    – Marthaª
    Nov 11, 2022 at 16:37
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    @PhilFreedenberg Magister, that one is a big masculine singular from Latin. Buster, it's time for the hipsters to muster up some monster that won't fester, one faster than than a postmaster generalization that "-ster suffix indicates female." Mister.
    – livresque
    Nov 12, 2022 at 10:50
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Old maid :

AHD old maid

noun 1. (Offensive) Used as a disparaging term for a woman who is no longer young and has not married.

adjective old-maidish

(The word maid without old can refer to an unmarried girl or woman, per AHD.)

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    The use of "maid" or "maiden" to mean "unmarried woman" are both archaic, it should be pointed out Nov 11, 2022 at 22:44
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    @NickMatteo The one remaining context where "maiden" to mean "unmarried woman" is still common is in the phrase "maiden name".
    – PersonX
    Nov 12, 2022 at 3:46
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To be neutral and objective, you could simply use unmarried (if you consider only (formal) marriage) or single (if you want to possibly include non-married partners), and leave the age aspect to the context, implicit, or omitted.

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  • I'd double-vote this one if I could. It really is the correct neutral term, having absolutely no implications of gender or reasons for that status. If you want to narrow it to those who never married, say just that. There is no reason to try to avoid these.
    – keshlam
    Nov 11, 2022 at 14:56
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    This assumes that married is the default, but it's in this century, so that's good. (BTW, simple and possible s/b adverbs: simply and possibly.) Nov 11, 2022 at 17:09
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    @HippoSawrUs Well, yes. Single has both "not married" and "without (sexual) partner" meanings, so perhaps it's best. There's something to which concept is the base and which one carries the negation (un-, non-, etc.), in English and other languages. Thanks for the corrections.
    – Pablo H
    Nov 11, 2022 at 17:31
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    The OP has clarified that they mean not just unmarried / single, but never married. Nov 12, 2022 at 16:07
  • @JohnBollinger Indeed. In fact, the context is exactly about being unmarried (or unpartnered?) into late age, so no way around using those or similar words. :-) Single is neutral, but finding neutral words for "old" is hard (though the fault lies more with culture than with the words per se).
    – Pablo H
    Nov 14, 2022 at 14:11
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For men, there is "confirmed bachelor", which is not pejorative. Just means that the guy has never been married, and does not seem to be on any trajectory to ever get married.

(There is also the idiosyncratic "Norwegian bachelor farmer" concept which played a recurring role in Garrison Keillor's "Prairie Home Companion". The phrase referred, as might be obvious, to a certain kind of single man living out in the country... perhaps having few interactions with any people at all, much less any potential spouse... of any sort.)

It may be worth noting that many of the historical instances of people living their lives without marrying anyone were cases of gay or lesbian people who had to hide their actual personal relationships due to (justified) fear of punishment. In particular, except for historical purposes, it might be misguided to really think in terms of "never married", when all it was was "not being allowed to marry the person you love".

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    Prior to the invention of the concept of "sexual orientation" in the 20th century, there were no gay or lesbian people, because the concept didn't exist yet; there were just people who had sex with other people of the same gender.
    – nick012000
    Nov 13, 2022 at 8:34
  • @nick012000, but/and some of them did have committed relationships to another individual... but could not be "married". Nov 14, 2022 at 19:48

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