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

British Dictionary definitions for single out


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 out



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 out

single out

Choose or distinguish from others, as in We singled him out from all the other applicants. This idiom was first recorded in 1629.


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.