For the average Chinese woman approaching the age of 27-30, getting married is a fairly high priority, and a large motivating factor to this is the cultural pressure of avoiding becoming a 剩女, or leftover woman.

The word is used often enough in news articles and television when talking about girls who are nearing this tragic fate, but when, if ever, would a person specifically refer to someone directly as a 剩女? It's obviously not a compliment, but in regards to culture in Mainland China, could it ever be used jokingly (你今年都25岁了,快会变成剩女吧)? Or when concerned about a friend's future (你现在不年轻了,你要快点结婚,不然变成剩女)?

So when, if ever, can someone explicitly refer to someone as a 剩女?

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    joking/concerned might be acceptable - but you wouldn't exactly go around using the word spinster to people's faces in English. I think it's more of something you'd use behind people's backs, if that's your style, or as a phenomenon in general.
    – Mou某
    Jun 26 '15 at 15:59
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    @user3306356 That's true, but the cultural expectations for women to get married by a certain age are less common in English-speaking countries Jun 26 '15 at 16:25

If you use this to refer to your close friend, she would probably not get angry with you. But in other cases it seems a little offensive.

Well I think this is the "dark side" of the traditional culture. As you said, girls get married mainly at that age, and Chinese parents usually get worried about their daughter's marriage when they grow up. So "being left" may be thought as a sign of "unable to marry".

However nowadays girls tend to emphasize the freedom of when to get married. They also want to fight for their own career and independency. Therefore the traditional parents' concepts are less welcomed.

In my opinion, Chinese media or websites use this word because this is likely from the Internet, and they just want to catch up with the young people's culture.

So, to conclude, if you use this words in a talking with a very close friend, and in a context that is not emphasizing the traditional concept, it's just OK. But it's better not use it even if the audience does not care about it.

Just my own opinion. Hope it helps.


In my opinion, it is usually offensive to call someone 剩女 in the face, even when joking. Of course there might be exceptions, for example, a senior family member may possibly use the word 剩女 to urge a child to prioritize marriage, but even in this case the person referred to may feel offended. My advice is to use other expressions that are more euphemistic.


Id say spinster old maid, or bachelorette as a joke maybe, but it doesn't quite fit the context... there's no comparable word because we don't necessary have the same societal pressure applied in the same way.

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