Definition of spinster in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈspinstər/


An unmarried woman, typically an older woman beyond the usual age for marriage.
Example sentences
  • He is a gigolo, a love 'em and leave 'em flimflam man who promises widows and spinsters marriage and devotion on the premise of a substantial upfront cash payment.
  • Finally, the night was drawing to an end and I was dragged up the front along with all the other unmarried spinsters - against my protests - to try and catch the bouquet.
  • At one time this would have raised eyebrows - all those lonely spinsters and neglected bachelors sitting at home, pining for a mate.
unmarried woman


The development of the word spinster is a good example of the way in which a word acquires strong connotations to the extent that it can no longer be used in a neutral sense. From the 17th century, the word was appended to names as the official legal description of an unmarried woman: Elizabeth Harris of Boston, Spinster. This type of use survives today only in some legal and religious contexts. In modern everyday English, however, spinster cannot be used to mean simply ‘unmarried woman’; as such, it is a derogatory term, referring or alluding to a stereotype of an older woman who is unmarried, childless, prissy, and repressed.



Pronunciation: /ˈspinstərˌho͝od/
Example sentences
  • I swear to God… I am preparing for my spinsterhood.
  • Her omnipotent Jewish mother valiantly works to end her daughter's spinsterhood, but to no avail.
  • Or perhaps, in a more generous mood, you'd have her turning 40 and sinking gracefully into the silent oblivion of confirmed spinsterhood.


Pronunciation: /ˈspinst(ə)riSH/
Example sentences
  • Sheba is branded a harlot in the press and forced to quit her job and flee the family home, which she does with Barbara Covett, the school's spinsterish history teacher.
  • Lenore's a singing waitress who's been dumped by her long-term boyfriend; Heidi is a spinsterish professor at Concordia, partnerless, but determined to get pregnant.
  • Too stern, too bookish, or too spinsterish - it was obvious that choosing glasses is tougher than finding a single man who's not weird.


Late Middle English (in the sense 'woman who spins'): from the verb spin + -ster; in early use the term was appended to names of women to denote their occupation. The current sense dates from the early 18th century.

  • A spinster was originally a woman who spun, something that many unmarried women used to do at home to earn their living. The word was often added after the name of a woman to describe her occupation, and in time became the official description of an unmarried woman. Today it has a dated feel and alludes to a stereotypical figure of an older woman who is unmarried, childless, and prim or repressed. The word could also once refer to another kind of spinner, a spider, and spider itself is descended from Old English spithra, from spinnan ‘to spin’. See also cobweb

Words that rhyme with spinster


For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: spin·ster

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