Definition of bluestocking in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈbluːstɒkɪŋ/


often derogatory
An intellectual or literary woman: a Victorian bluestocking [as modifier]: bluestocking women
More example sentences
  • Are book editors letting the good ones get away and, in the process, limiting their audience to literary bluestockings?
  • The roll-call of celebrated women expanded from the traditional saints, queens, Biblical heroines and aristocratic savantes to include middle-class bluestockings, actresses and other non-elite prodigies.
  • Both parties sign a contract setting out terms on which they insist, and men are presented with a variety of women from nymphomaniacs through bluestockings to homemakers.


late 17th century: originally used to describe a man wearing blue worsted (instead of formal black silk) stockings; extended to mean 'in informal dress'. Later the term denoted a person who attended the literary assemblies held (c.1750) by three London society ladies, where some of the men favoured less formal dress. The women who attended became known as blue-stocking ladies or blue-stockingers.

  • [L17th]

    During the 17th and 18th centuries men favoured blue worsted stockings for informal daytime wear, but never on formal occasions, when black silk stockings were in order. In about 1750 the botanist and writer Benjamin Stillingfleet was asked to an assembly for literary conversation at Montagu House in London. These gatherings were notable for being attended by women with literary and intellectual tastes. Stillingfleet felt he had to refuse the invitation as he was too poor to afford the formal dress required, but his hostess told him to come as he was, in his informal day clothes. So he turned up in his everyday blue worsted stockings and started a trend. Some sneered at these assemblies, using such terms as bluestocking assemblies and bluestocking ladies, and an intellectual woman soon became just a bluestocking.

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: blue|stock¦ing

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