Origin of single

1275–1325; late Middle English (adj.), Middle English sengle < Old French < Latin singulus individual, single (usually in the plural singuli one apiece), derivative of *sem- one (see simplex)
Related formsqua·si-sin·gle, adjectivequa·si-sin·gly, adverbun·sin·gle, adjective
Can be confusedsignal singlesingle singular

Synonyms for single

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for single

Contemporary Examples of single

Historical Examples of single

  • He had united them and he had made them the first of all nations to worship a single God.

    Ancient Man

    Hendrik Willem van Loon

  • It is a single round, low tower, shaped like the tomb of Cacilia Metella.


    Thomas Wentworth Higginson

  • He was rich and he was willing to take the daughter without a single penny.

    Ancient Man

    Hendrik Willem van Loon

  • They are not the principles of a province or of a single continent.

  • The bare reference to a single consideration will be conclusive on this point.

British Dictionary definitions for single


adjective (usually prenominal)

existing alone; solitaryupon the hill stood a single tower
distinct from other things; unique or individual
composed of one part
designed for one usera single room; a single bed
(also postpositive) unmarried
connected with the condition of being unmarriedhe led a single life
(esp of combat) involving two individuals; one against one
sufficient for one person or thing onlya single portion of food
even onethere wasn't a single person on the beach
(of a flower) having only one set or whorl of petals
determined; single-mindeda single devotion to duty
(of the eye) seeing correctlyto consider something with a single eye
rare honest or sincere; genuine
archaic (of ale, beer, etc) mild in strength


something forming one individual unit
an unmarried person
a gramophone record, CD, or cassette with a short recording, usually of pop music, on it
golf a game between two players
cricket a hit from which one run is scored
  1. Britisha pound note
  2. US and Canadiana dollar note


(tr usually foll by out) to select from a group of people or things; distinguish by separationhe singled him out for special mention
(tr) to thin out (seedlings)
short for single-foot
See also singles
Derived Formssingleness, noun

Word Origin for single

C14: from Old French sengle, from Latin singulus individual
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for single

early 14c., "unmarried," from Old French sengle, sangle "alone, unaccompanied; simple, unadorned," from Latin singulus "one, one to each, individual, separate" (usually in plural singuli "one by one"), from sim- (stem of simplus; see simple) + diminutive suffix. Meaning "consisting of one unit, individual, unaccompanied by others" is from late 14c. Meaning "undivided" is from 1580s. Single-parent (adj.) is attested from 1966.


c.1400, "unmarried person," mid-15c., "a person alone, an individual," from single (adj.). Given various technical meanings from 16c. Sports sense is attested from 1851 (cricket), 1858 (baseball). Of single things from 1640s. Meaning "one-dollar bill" is from 1936. Meaning "phonograph record with one song on each side" is from 1949. Meaning "unmarried swinger" is from 1964; singles bar attested from 1969. An earlier modern word for "unmarried or unattached person" is singleton (1937).


"to separate from the herd" (originally in deer-hunting, often with forth or out), 1570s, from single (adj.). Baseball sense of "to make a one-base hit" is from 1899 (from the noun meaning "one-base hit," attested from 1858). Related: Singled; singling.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with single


In addition to the idioms beginning with single

  • single file, in
  • single out

also see:

  • each and every (every single)
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.