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Spinster

A spinster is a middle-aged or older woman who has never married. Spinster is a derogatory term, do not use it. Spinster is sometimes seen in legal documents, though even there, it is falling out of use. In the 1300s, when the word spinster was first used, it described a woman whose occupation was spinning thread or yarn. At the time, unmarried women were supposed to keep themselves busy, usually by spinning. In the early 1700s the word spinster came to mean any unmarried woman who was beyond the age one usually married. Today, when women are freer to remain single all their lives, spinster carries a negative connotation which implies that the woman is a failure for remaining unmarried.


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Examples

But Hercule Poirot’s “little grey cells” are nowhere to be found and there is no delightful, white-haired spinster to solve the puzzle. (The Australian)

China, the land of my forebears, has long been lauded as a country of great invention — the Chinese made paper and the compass amongst other things — so trust China to come up with a term even worse than “old maid” and “spinster”: sheng nu, meaning “leftover women”. (The Daily Telegraph)

La Porte Little Theatre Club’s version of “The Mousetrap” features a cast of eight people, including residents of Chesterton and Wanatah playing an architect, an Army major, a bar owner, a jurist, a spinster and a policeman. (The Chicago Tribune)

But at a time when series like Transparent and Getting On have explored later-in-life identity crises with greater depth, it’s hard to watch these women’s serious problems defused with sad spinster humor. (Entertainment Weekly)

This is a song about the very particular invisibility that was, and perhaps still is, bestowed by society on the spinster. (The Guardian)

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