[ spin-ster ]
See synonyms for spinster on Thesaurus.com
  1. Disparaging and Offensive. a woman still unmarried beyond the usual age of marrying.

  2. Chiefly Law. a woman who has never married.

  1. a woman whose occupation is spinning.

Origin of spinster

1325–75; Middle English spinnestere a woman who spins. See spin, -ster

usage note For spinster

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.

Other words from spinster

  • spin·ster·hood, noun
  • spin·ster·ish, adjective
  • spin·ster·ish·ly, adverb
  • spin·ster·like, adjective

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use spinster in a sentence

  • She knew her capabilities, well-tried in some sixty odd years of unprotected spinsterhood.

    The Backwoodsmen | Charles G. D. Roberts
  • She had so early in life taken up an attitude of resolute spinsterhood that there was a tendency to exaggerate her years.

    Sophy of Kravonia | Anthony Hope
  • Richard wondered whether she had pledged herself to spinsterhood, but of course he didn't ask her.

  • She possesses indeed the sort of athletic chastity which is a characteristic charm of Northern spinsterhood.

    Three Plays by Granville-Barker | Harley Granville-Barker
  • But Jennie was discontented, puling for what she could not have, mourning her lowly fortune, deploring her spinsterhood.

    My Neighbors | Caradoc Evans

British Dictionary definitions for spinster


/ (ˈspɪnstə) /

  1. an unmarried woman regarded as being beyond the age of marriage

  2. law (in legal documents) a woman who has never married: Compare feme sole

  1. (formerly) a woman who spins thread for her living

Origin of spinster

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

Derived forms of spinster

  • spinsterhood, noun
  • spinsterish, adjective

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