Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun Often Offensive A woman, especially an older one, who has not married.
  • noun Archaic A person, especially a woman, whose occupation is spinning thread.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun A woman who spins; by extension, any person who spins; a spinner.
  • noun 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.
  • noun A woman of an evil life or character: so called from being forced to spin in the house of correction. See spin-house.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun A woman who spins, or whose occupation is to spin.
  • noun obsolete A man who spins.
  • noun (Law) An unmarried or single woman; -- used in legal proceedings as a title, or addition to the surname.
  • noun obsolete A woman of evil life and character; -- so called from being forced to spin in a house of correction.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun A woman who has never been married, especially one past the typical marrying age according to social traditions.
  • noun 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.
  • noun obsolete Someone whose occupation was spinning thread.
  • noun obsolete A woman of evil life and character; so called from being forced to spin in a house of correction.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • noun an elderly unmarried woman
  • noun someone who spins (who twists fibers into threads)

Etymologies

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Middle English spinnestere, female spinner of thread : spinnen, to spin; see spin + -estere, -ster, -ster.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From spin +‎ -ster, from a historical notion of unmarried women spinning thread for a living.

Examples

  • 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.

    Managing Strategic Relationships

  • 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.

    Managing Strategic Relationships

  • 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.

    Managing Strategic Relationships

  • Women spun for their own households, and the term spinster was introduced.

    Comic History of England

  • 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.

    GetReligion

  • 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.

    GetReligion

  • She was tall for a woman and still rather young to live under the weight of the title spinster.

    The Mercury Visions of Louis Daguerre

  • She was tall for a woman and still rather young to live under the weight of the title spinster.

    The Mercury Visions of Louis Daguerre

  • She was tall for a woman and still rather young to live under the weight of the title spinster.

    The Mercury Visions of Louis Daguerre

  • The age-old term "spinster," for example, continues to be used to deride unmarried women -- past their prime, and left spinning in the tower.

    Adam Foldes: 'Spinster'? What About 'Peddler'? A Gender Inequality in Terms of Commitment

Comments

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  • Meg called herself this when she was worried she wouldn't be able to get a husband.

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