How do you refer to men who are unable to get women for courtship?

Context of the question: A man might want a woman for sex, just for sex, for marriage, for a relationship that might not necessarily lead to a marriage, etc. But whatever might be the reason, the man needs to be able to talk to/impress/approach the lady. If a person is unable to do so and thus has a very hard time getting women, what would you call him?

Also, please do not consider paying a woman in the same way as I am trying to express getting a woman. Both are totally different things. Whatever the a man might want from a woman, he needs to go through a test of sorts. That could be having a soft heart for some women, simply wealth for others, with some it is social status, etc. What do you call a person who does not pass this test (or hardly ever passes it) with any woman.

Also, I am not looking for slang terms.

  • 5
    I sometimes call them Redditors. :b
    – Zairja
    Commented Sep 9, 2012 at 15:56
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    While 'unattractive' is usually used in reference to physical beauty, the term in its broader sense simply means to be 'unable to attract' whatever the reason.
    – Jim
    Commented Sep 9, 2012 at 18:21
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    I voted to reopen this. The question is specific enough - we want a word that means "unlucky in love" or "involuntarily without a girlfriend". The OP specifically mentioned courtship, as opposed to sex, so that it's clear what's required. The whole point of the question is that it's NOT about WHY this person is in this state - so "unattractive", "socially awkward", "unlikable" and so on don't qualify as answers. And it is not going to result in a long list of possibilities - we haven't seen a great answer yet. It seems to me that questions like this one are exactly what the SWR tag is for.
    – user16269
    Commented Sep 9, 2012 at 18:39
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    @RitwikG- If you are willing to introduce a playful/teasing aspect you might say, "My friend seems to repel women."
    – Jim
    Commented Sep 9, 2012 at 19:13
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    @Ritwik G: I'm not in favour of this question having been closed, but we'd have more chance of getting it re-opened (and maybe even answered) if you'd edit the question to say whether you want a slang, normal usage, or technical (academic, psychiatric) term. And whether it's men who can't get sex, or can't form close and/or lasting relationships with women, or whatever. Commented Sep 9, 2012 at 20:46

5 Answers 5


A man (or woman) may be "friend-zoned":

. . .where one person wishes to enter into a romantic relationship while the other does not.

Assuming the man lost his partner, he could be lovelorn ("bereft of love or of a lover") because he is unattractive, unlikable, uncouth or for any number of reasons.

It's often said that "nice guys finish last" or a "nice guy" is "unlucky in love". However, not all who fail romantically are necessarily "nice guys".

As has been pointed out in the comments, it's possible the man is involuntarily celibate. Such people are colloquially referred to as "incels".

Edit: What follows is supplementary but "closes" the question in my mind. I offer few inline citations since the words I suggest are general reference.

First off, I would argue this question falls somewhere between "not constructive" and "not a real question" as per the FAQ. It has clearly created extended discussion and is too broad to be reasonably answered.

Simply put, there is no well-defined term that meet's the question's requirements. Nevertheless, we can examine a range of possibilities and, given better context, one may be selected.

The man is incompatible with some women. Whether it's due to his choice in women or his own traits is irrelevant (and not clear without context). We can add that the man is romantically incompatible with some women to be more precise. Furthermore, we can say, "As far as establishing relationships go, he is a born loser," i.e habitually unsuccessful in his attempts. Again, whether it's because of a social anxiety disorder, negative personality traits, bad luck, poor decision-making in mate selection, etc. is irrelevant although this context would be far more informative than trying to describe the result as the question wishes.

The man may be considered a social or romantic reject ("one rejected as not wanted, unsatisfactory, or not fulfilling requirements"), romantically ostracized, or a social outcast, though there is some dubious circular reasoning here -- but we're not trying to describe or ascertain the why of the situation which is implicit in many alternative descriptions.

The man is the male equivalent of a spinster:

[. . .] a woman who has not formed a human pair bond by the time she is approaching or has reached menopause and the end of her reproductive lifespan.

There is no word with the exact same connotations for males. The closest we have is bachelor, further qualified in unwilling bachelor (see Section (h), e.g.). As a single person, he may be considered "on the shelf".

Ultimately there appears to be no single word to describe all the nuances the question may wish to convey. Sadly, one will have to rely on multiple words (perhaps even multiple sentences!) to express the situation.

  • Ultimately there appears to be no single word to describe all the nuances the question may wish to convey ... But you took a valuable effort nevertheless. Thanks !
    – Chani
    Commented Sep 14, 2012 at 6:25
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    @dwjohnston Regardless of the validity of being "friend-zoned" (personally, I think the concept is bologna and misogynistic), the term is part of the vernacular and has an established meaning that could fit in the context of OP's question. Thanks for the feedback, though.
    – Zairja
    Commented Jul 8, 2014 at 15:12
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    @dwjohnston: "Friend-zoned" is the linguistically correct, (although not politically correct) answer. This is an English, and not Politics site. +1.
    – Tom Au
    Commented Feb 20, 2015 at 23:43
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    @dwjohnston I don't understand why friend-zoned would warrant a downvote. It's a perfectly valid and appropriate term. (Zairja: I don't see how it's misogynist, either—either sex can friend-zone a suitor of either sex. It's no more misogynist than any other term you've offered, and a lot less misogynist than spinster.) Commented May 26, 2015 at 9:02
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    @dwjohnston Hm, well, I have to say I pretty much disagree vehemently with every single point in that article. The article comes off as a lot more sexist than the term ‘friend zone’ itself is, at least in my own personal experience. I’ve heard plenty of my female friends venting their spleen at having been friend-zoned by some guy. I also don’t see how the term ‘friend zone’ perpetuates the notion that anyone in it is powerless to act—that’s like saying the term ‘unemployment’ perpetuates the notion that someone who doesn’t currently have a job can’t do anything to get one. Commented May 26, 2015 at 20:00

A nebbish.

In the New York 'Woody Allen' parlance, he would be called a nebbish.


A man who fails to date any woman, even once, seems a very unlikely situation unless... unless women avert something about him that effectively scares them off. There has to be something in his behaviour, in the way he approaches a woman that sets off alarm bells. I can think of two or three adjectives that might justify a woman's reluctance or hesitancy in dating such a man.

He is a creep. He is a weirdo. A loser.

Radiohead wrote a song which epitomised the unrequited love and lust that both men and women experience when they yearn for someone who isn't in their league. He may be an 9 while the woman is, objectively speaking, a 6. It is also notoriously more difficult for a physically unattractive woman to to lure a potential partner, regardless of the adage, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Whereas, men have it easier. If they are not Brad Pitt look-alikes, they can always work on their charm, develop a sense of humour, be kind and thoughtful, accumulate wealth, achieve success in their field of work, cultivate a variety of interests, be athletic, be learned in the fine arts etc.

A woman in her 20s will look beyond a man's physical attractiveness, and will be intrigued by what he can offer her. However, if he is dull, selfish, unkind, penniless, ageing, overweight, with limited conversation and intellect, suffers from halitosis and is unattractive. Then it's no surprise he doesn't get past first base.


They call that guy a "Wallflower", because he is around but women don't seem to care.

  • Welcome to EL&U. Please add references to support your answer. Commented Feb 21, 2018 at 0:36

How do you refer to men who are unable to get women for courtship?

Such men don't make the grade, pass muster, or measure up (all idiomatic verb phrases).

  • Make the grade: come up to standard; qualify
  • Pass muster: to bear examination; to be sufficiently good not to be rejected (polite conversation)
  • Measure up: have the qualifications for; be of high enough quality for

While researching measure up, I found a more archaic version of the idiom:

To take the measure of a man's foot: to see what is his character; to decide mentally how much a man is fit for or will venture to do (familiar conversation or informal)

English Idioms by James Main Dixon, ca 1902 (measure up is not included in this book, nor is make the grade; only pass muster).

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