• synonyms


  1. Disparaging and Offensive. a woman still unmarried beyond the usual age of marrying.
  2. Chiefly Law. a woman who has never married.
  3. a woman whose occupation is spinning.
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Origin of spinster

1325–75; Middle English spinnestere a woman who spins. See spin, -ster
Related formsspin·ster·hood, nounspin·ster·ish, adjectivespin·ster·ish·ly, adverbspin·ster·like, adjective

Usage note

The meaning “a woman beyond the usual marriageable age” is used with disparaging intent and perceived as insulting. It implies negative qualities such as being fussy or undesirable. See also old maid.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for spinsterhood

Historical Examples of spinsterhood

  • Miss Priest was no "spin" lingering on in spinsterhood against her will.

    Camps, Quarters and Casual Places

    Archibald Forbes

  • Or do you look forward to spinsterhood in a cottage with a canary?

    Scarlet and Hyssop

    E. F. Benson

  • There was no doubt his friendship had saved her from the worst perils of spinsterhood.

  • She told me once that she was confident my nose was the cause of my spinsterhood.

  • And later on, when she came to be boss, she still kept to spinsterhood.

    A Master of Fortune

    Cutcliffe Hyne

British Dictionary definitions for spinsterhood


  1. an unmarried woman regarded as being beyond the age of marriage
  2. law (in legal documents) a woman who has never marriedCompare feme sole
  3. (formerly) a woman who spins thread for her living
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Derived Formsspinsterhood, nounspinsterish, adjective

Word Origin for spinster

C14 (in the sense: a person, esp a woman, whose occupation is spinning; C17: a woman still unmarried): from spin + -ster
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 spinsterhood



mid-14c., "female spinner of thread," from Middle English spinnen (see spin) + -stere, feminine suffix. Spinning commonly done by unmarried women, hence the word came to denote "an unmarried woman" in legal documents from 1600s to early 1900s, and by 1719 was being used generically for "woman still unmarried and beyond the usual age for it."

Spinster, a terme, or an addition in our Common Law, onely added in Obligations, Euidences, and Writings, vnto maids vnmarried. [John Minsheu, "Ductor in Linguas," 1617]
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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper