American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
- n. A woman who has remained single beyond the conventional age for marrying.
- n. A single woman.
- n. A person whose occupation is spinning.
Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
- n. A woman who spins; by extension, any person who spins; a spinner.
- n. An unmarried woman (so called because she was supposed to occupy herself with spinning): the legal designation in England of all unmarried women from a viscount's daughter downward; popularly, an elderly unmarried woman; an “old maid”: sometimes used adjectively.
- n. A woman of an evil life or character: so called from being forced to spin in the house of correction. See spin-house.
- n. A woman who has never been married, especially one past the typical marrying age according to social traditions.
- n. One who spins (puts a spin on) a political media story so as to give something a favorable or advantageous appearance; a spin doctor, spin merchant or spin master.
- n. obsolete Someone whose occupation was spinning thread.
- n. obsolete A woman of evil life and character; so called from being forced to spin in a house of correction.
GNU Webster's 1913
- n. A woman who spins, or whose occupation is to spin.
- n. obsolete A man who spins.
- n. (Law) An unmarried or single woman; -- used in legal proceedings as a title, or addition to the surname.
- n. obsolete A woman of evil life and character; -- so called from being forced to spin in a house of correction.
- n. an elderly unmarried woman
- n. someone who spins (who twists fibers into threads)
- From spin + -ster, from a historical notion of unmarried women spinning thread for a living. (Wiktionary)
- Middle English spinnestere, female spinner of thread : spinnen, to spin; see spin + -estere, -ster, -ster. (American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
“The term spinster — used today to refer to a woman who remains unmarried — originated with women who spent their adult years at the spinning wheel rather than raising a family.”
“Women spun for their own households, and the term spinster was introduced.”
“The headline's use of the term spinster is clearly a pejorative term that connotes an attempt to avoid degradation and disapproval by society by maintaining single-status beyond the time that society believes is appropriate.”
“She was tall for a woman and still rather young to live under the weight of the title spinster.”
“The age-old term "spinster," for example, continues to be used to deride unmarried women -- past their prime, and left spinning in the tower.”
“Alexia, a spinster, is outspoken, intelligent, witty and — an aspect I liked (even if I thought it was mentioned a little too often) — not conventionally pretty for her time.”
“The oldest spinster is the self-appointed cook in this house.”
“These days, I rarely if ever respond to the bitter, cynical â€œobservationsâ€ of a certain spinster, atheist schoolmarm.”
“And she might, had she realised it, have pointed out that the modern spinster is a product of peace in a double sense – of the peace which allowed the industrial revolution to establish both”
“Ok so perhaps I substituted the word "individual" from "woman" but hey, if right wing conspiracy theorists can change the definition of marriage, then I can change the definition of spinster.”
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