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Spinster

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An unmarried woman.

The fleece which was brought home by the Anglo-Saxons in summer, was spun into clothing by the female part of each family during the winter. King Edward the Elder commanded his daughters to be instructed in the use of the distaff. Alfred the Great, in his will, calls the female part of his family the spindle side; and it was a regularly received axiom with our frugal forefathers, that no young woman was fit to be a wife till she had spun for herself a set of body, table, and bed linen. Hence the maiden was termed a spinner or spinster, and the married woman a wife or “one who has been a spinner.” (Anglo-Saxon, wif, from the verb wyfan or wefan, to weave.)

⁂ The armorial bearings of women are not painted on a shield, like those of men, but on a spindle (called a “lozenge”). Among the Romans the bride carried a distaff, and Homer tells us that Kryseis was to spin and share the king’s bed.

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Entry taken from Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, edited by the Rev. E. Cobham Brewer, LL.D. and revised in 1895.

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Sphinx (The Egyptian)
Spice
Spick and Span New
Spider
Spidireen or Spidereen
Spigot
Spilt Milk
Spindle-half
Spinning Jenny
Spinoza’s System
Spinster
Spirit
Spirit-writing
Spirits
Spirits (Elemental)
Spirited Away
Spiritual Mother
Spiritualism or Spiritism
Spirt or Spurt
Spitalfields (London)
Spite of His Teeth (In)

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Distaff