A bachelor is a man above the age of majority who has never been married (see single). A man who was formerly married is not a bachelor but rather is a divorcé or a widower (except in cases where the marriage was legally annulled, in which case there was legally no marriage-especially if it was never consummated).

The term is sometimes restricted to men who do not have and are not actively seeking a spouse or other personal partner.Cole, David. "Note on Analyticity and the Definability of "Bachelor"." Philosophy Department. 1 Feb. 1999. 14 Feb. 2008 <>. For example, men who are in a committed relationship with a personal partner (female or male) to whom they are not married are no longer generally considered "bachelors," but neither are they considered married - because they are not. Thus, a broad grey, unnamed status has emerged between the concepts of "bachelor" and "married man."

During the Victorian Era, the term confirmed bachelor often was used as a euphemism for a gay man and is currently still in use in the United States and Great Britain. In spite of the wider acceptance of gay people and same-sex relationships in recent years there are only little changes in this historic usage. Meanwhile, the term "confirmed bachelor" can also refer to heterosexual men who show no interest in marriage or classes of committed relationships.

Most eligible bachelor is a generic term for a published listing of bachelors considered to be desirable marriage candidates. Usually most eligible bachelor lists are published on an annual basis and present listed men in a ranked order.

Etymology and historical meanings

Penal laws and customs

Bachelors, in the sense of unmarried men, have in many countries been subjected to ridicule and draconian penal laws. At Sparta, citizens who remained unmarried after a certain age suffered various penalties. They were not allowed to witness the gymnastic exercises of the maidens; and during winter they were compelled to march naked round the marketplace, singing a song composed against themselves and expressing the justice of their punishment. The usual respect of the young to the old was not paid to bachelors.

At Athens there was no definite legislation on this matter; but certain minor laws are evidently dictated by a spirit akin to the Spartan doctrine. At Rome, though there appear traces of some earlier legislation in the matter, the first clearly known law is that called the Lex Julia, passed about 18 BC. It does not appear to have ever come into full operation; and in AD 9 it was incorporated with the Lex Papia et Poppaea, the two laws being frequently cited as one, Lex Julia et Papia Poppaea. This law, while restricting marriages between the several classes of the people, laid heavy penalties on unmarried persons, gave certain privileges to those citizens who had several children, and finally imposed lighter penalties on married persons who were childless.

Isolated instances of such penalties occur during the Middle Ages, e.g. by a charter of liberties granted by Matilda I, countess of Nevers, to Auxerre in 1223, an annual tax of five solidi is imposed on any man qui non habet uxorem et est bache-larius. In Great Britain there has been no direct legislation bearing on bachelors; but, occasionally, taxes have been made to bear more heavily on them than on others. Instances of this are an Act passed in 1695; the tax on servants, 1785; and the income tax, 1798.

In some cultures, the "punishment" of bachelors is no more than a teasing game. In small towns in Germany, for example, men who were still unmarried on their 30th birthday were made to sweep the stairs of the town hall until kissed by a virgin. This "punishment" is still practised today in parts of Northern Germany [1]. Similarly, in Denmark, a male is called a "pebersvend" and may receive a giant pepper grinder on his 30th birthday if unmarried [2].

Famous lifetime bachelors

Living bachelors

Longtime bachelors

See also

Further reading

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