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A bachelor is a man above the age of majority who has never been married (see single). However, unlike the terms "single" and "unmarried", "bachelor" carries specific connotations that, given the gravity with which society treats intimate human relationships, make incorrect usage of the term glaring and possibly offensive.[1]

The word "bachelor" is sometimes restricted to men who do not have and are not actively seeking a spouse or other personal partner.[2] For example, men who are in a committed relationship with someone to whom they are not married are no longer generally considered "bachelors,"[citation needed] but neither are they considered married.[2] Thus, there exists a considerable gray area between the concepts of "bachelor" and "married man." [2]

Research done by sociologists Richard Pitt and Elizabeth Borland sharpens the definition of bachelor to mean "men who live independently, outside of their parents' home and other institutional settings, who are neither married nor cohabitating" for just this reason. They discovered that these bachelors were more liberal in their attitudes towards women's roles in society; this was not the case for those men who were only "unmarried".[3]

The term "confirmed bachelor" or "lifelong bachelor" can refer to men who show little interest in marriage or classes of committed relationships. Although now almost archaic due to more liberal social attitudes, "confirmed batchelor" (along with such terms as "not the marrying kind" and "never met the right woman"), may also be a euphemism for a gay man.

"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

The word is from Old French bachelier "knight bachelor", a young squire in training, ultimately from Latin baccalarius, a vassal farmer. The Old French term crossed into English around 1300, referring to one belonging to the lowest stage of knighthood. Knights bachelor were either poor vassals who could not afford to take the field under their own banner, or knights too young to support the responsibility and dignity of knights banneret. From the 14th century, the term was also used for a junior member of a guild, otherwise known as "yeomen", or university; hence, an ecclesiastic of an inferior grade, e.g. a young monk or even recently appointed canon (Severtius, de episcopis Lugdunen-sibus, p. 377, in du Cange).

"Bachelor" can also refer to those holding a "bachelor's degree" from a university (or a four-year college, in the American system of higher education). In this sense the word baccalarius or baccalaureus first appears at the University of Paris in the 13th century, in the system of degrees established under the auspices of Pope Gregory IX, as applied to scholars still in statu pupillari. Thus there were two classes of baccalarii: the baccalarii cursores, theological candidates passed for admission to the divinity course; and the baccalarii dispositi, who, having completed this course, were entitled to proceed to the higher degrees. The term baccalaureus is a pun combining the prosaic baccalarius with bacca lauri' "laurel berry" — according to the American Heritage Dictionary, "bacca" is the Old Irish word for "farmer" + laureus, "laurel berry," the idea being that a "baccalaureate" had farmed (cultivated) his mind.[citation needed]

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