Definition of single in English:



  • 1[attributive] Only one; not one of several.

    ‘a single red rose’
    ‘the kingdom was ruled over by a single family’
    • ‘The focus is narrowed further in typical Spielberg terms to a single dysfunctional family.’
    • ‘The action is rooted in the 1940s, most of it centred on a single family.’
    • ‘Poetry is stepping out of the orchestra to play solo with the single instrument of language.’
    • ‘Also not new is the scapegoating of a single element to explain isolated events.’
    • ‘They also offered to take a single photo for the family to remember him by.’
    • ‘Boredom among children is common in those families with a single child.’
    • ‘Now I keep trying to remind myself that some people are supporting whole families on a single income.’
    • ‘Using the showname and unique id produces a single episode.’
    • ‘A pure monopolist is a single seller of a unique product which is the sole source of the firm's monopoly power.’
    • ‘Reserving seats exclusively for a single school does not help the minority community in general.’
    • ‘The Jews in the ghetto were forced to live in chronic overcrowding, with many families inhabiting a single house.’
    • ‘As a matter of policy we should aim to keep the family as a single unit.’
    • ‘Or does crisis strike when you have a single outbreak on an isolated peninsula?’
    • ‘It was generally not a case of persons or families making a single move.’
    • ‘During the Middle Ages, most towns had streets exclusively occupied by a single trade.’
    • ‘That may be true but remember those in a single income family face the same financial pressures as those with a double income.’
    • ‘A family may compose a single household, or it might be composed of several households.’
    • ‘The authors also were careful to exclude examples of activity unique to a single chimpanzee.’
    • ‘Typically, an attack begins when a single hornet captures a lone bee nearby the hive.’
    • ‘The price of single family homes increased close to fifteen percent in the last twelve months.’
    one, one only, sole, lone, solitary, isolated, by itself
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    1. 1.1Regarded as distinct from each other or others in a group.
      ‘she wrote down every single word’
      ‘alcohol is the single most important cause of violence’
      • ‘They refuse to exchange a single word with anyone else over the entire trip.’
      • ‘What is the single most important cause for failure in international business?’
      • ‘I photographed every single thing I ate and drank last week.’
      • ‘A person can communicate in so many ways without uttering a single word and they are understood clearly.’
      • ‘For the average U.S. family, the single largest source of wealth is the equity in their home.’
      • ‘Her condition was so serious that when the call was answered she was unable to utter a single word because of a blockage in her throat.’
      • ‘There's no single defining feature of social software, no common thread.’
      • ‘Bryan and Kim had been silent, not saying a single word to each other the whole way back to Kim's house.’
      • ‘They were talking to each other, but the engines were too loud to distinguish a single word from here.’
      • ‘Personal income taxes are now by far the largest single family expense.’
      individual, separate, distinct, particular
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    2. 1.2[with negative]Even one (used for emphasis)
      ‘they didn't receive a single reply’
      • ‘Not a single member of my family, as far as I know, has travelled outside of Australia.’
      • ‘Yet when I tried to follow it up with a series of letters I never received a single reply.’
      • ‘Well, I never received a single reply from Nova, not even a form letter.’
      • ‘There isn't a single family that didn't have horror stories to tell about the POW that came home.’
      • ‘Sorry for those who fear censorship but there is not a single mention in the document of the right to reply to opinions.’
      • ‘So today, with tens of thousands homeless, not a single family is sleeping in the new camp.’
      • ‘As she ate her dinner that night with her foster family not a single one of them was answered.’
    3. 1.3Designed or suitable for one person.
      ‘a single bed’
      • ‘Residents live in shared or single rooms, with male and female residents in separate sections of the home.’
      • ‘Once his immune system had built up, he was transferred to a single room and slowly weaned off the drugs keeping him alive.’
      • ‘The new facility, which will be sited either on the same site or beside the Great Western Hospital, would have single rooms.’
      • ‘Tracey has had to move into her three-year-old daughter, Sophie's, room and share her single bed.’
      • ‘This means dismantling the single bed, the better to fill the space with puppy pens.’
      • ‘The majority of the rooms available in Manor Village are single en-suite rooms and the most there would be is two to a room.’
      • ‘I even customised my single bed to create a studio-like setting in my room for rehearsals.’
      • ‘One of the bedrooms was unveiled yesterday and contains only single beds.’
      • ‘The room is quite large, with four lonely single beds, a sterile ensuite shower and separate toilet.’
      • ‘However, more single people could mean a demand for more single rooms.’
      • ‘The cost is 365 and their will be an extra supplement for anyone requesting a single room.’
      • ‘Unfortunately, if a dorm room is not available during your stay, you have to fork over extra cash for a single room.’
      • ‘I had been in a single bed and then had to share a double with two sisters.’
      • ‘Finally they find a dodgy motel that has some space, but the proprietor tells them the only room left contains one single bed.’
      • ‘To the right of the entrance to the shelter is a single metal framed bed.’
      • ‘Cell-like, there is just room for a single bed, a desk and a chest of drawers.’
      • ‘He said that a single room was not available until the night before Mrs Stockdale's death, and she was then moved.’
      • ‘Some colleges are building residence halls with an emphasis on private, single rooms.’
      • ‘In the end we called in on a friend of mine, crashed on a single bed in the spare room.’
      • ‘In October, single rooms will go up to 330 but there will be no further increase for double rooms until next year.’
    4. 1.4archaic Not accompanied by others; alone.
      • ‘She was quite single and by herself.’
  • 2Unmarried or not involved in a stable sexual relationship.

    ‘a single mother’
    • ‘No good blaming the shortcomings of the single mother without considering the abandoned responsibilities of the father.’
    • ‘She's strong enough to be out the country when there's a vote as to whether her single mother constituents will have their benefits cut.’
    • ‘Even unwed single mothers have said that they want more children than they have, even in an unwed state.’
    • ‘I employ much less grace than those women did when as single mothers they worked for minimal wages.’
    • ‘It is outrageous to use women in same-sex relationships and single women as scapegoats.’
    • ‘She is handling cases in Rochdale involving families from Cameroon and Angola and single mothers with children.’
    • ‘Sandra is an attractive 29-year old single mother who lives in a council house in Tallaght.’
    • ‘For single women or mothers with no husband to support them there was no dole.’
    • ‘To be a borderline poverty level working mother is becoming a reality for more and more single, hard working mothers.’
    • ‘The others were two married corporals, a single corporal and two unmarried lance-corporals.’
    • ‘Being single after my last relationship has been a blessing.’
    • ‘Low-income single mothers are still in the labor market in unprecedented numbers.’
    • ‘Likewise, a huge number of single mothers have taken advantage of the opportunity to meet men without having to scout for a babysitter.’
    • ‘Who decided that a new organisation would be best for single mothers to enable them to claim upkeep and support from missing fathers?’
    • ‘Anyone on a low income and without a car, including many pensioners and single mothers, will struggle to find the extra money.’
    • ‘One second I would remember that I had spent the last couple of months of our relationship wishing I was single.’
    • ‘She later had two daughters and is raising them as a single mother.’
    • ‘As mentioned before, it's hard enough for single mothers to raise their children.’
    • ‘It is rather a conservative family structure and relatively mean benefits for single mothers that cause the low pregnancy rate.’
    • ‘I am a single mother who raised three boys and then went back to school.’
    unmarried, unwed, unwedded, unattached, free, without a husband, without a partner, without a wife, wifeless, husbandless, spouseless, partnerless, a bachelor, a spinster
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  • 3[attributive] Consisting of one part.

    ‘the studio was a single large room’
    • ‘We lived afterward in a single room, not wanting to move or do anything at all.’
    • ‘Beside this, the single room includes a cast-iron open fireplace with tiled surround.’
    • ‘The kids are all warehoused in a single room.’
    • ‘The ground floor has a rustic bar with several tables in a single room.’
    • ‘In the single room there was an open fire with a cauldron hanging over it which contained broth.’
    • ‘The project actually carried me a step closer to perfecting my single room living arrangement.’
    • ‘Outside is a small boiler house and the vestry with a single room of about 90 sq ft.’
    • ‘It grew from a single room with one doctor to a medical centre on three floors.’
    • ‘The main exhibition space occupies two of these boxes, but reads as a single room inside - it's a lot of effort for not much result.’
    • ‘At first, a single room is used as living, sleeping and working space.’
    • ‘I am downsizing to a single room and experiencing the liberation of getting rid of stuff.’
    • ‘Operating from a cramped single room next to the farmhouse, Loula shows us the process.’
    • ‘My neighbour Hassan Sheikh lived on the terrace of his building, in a single room surrounded by cotes for his pigeons.’
    • ‘We removed the walls between the rooms, creating a single living and dining space.’
    • ‘Penhall's action is static, set as it is in a single room with the characters mostly talking in chairs.’
    • ‘The restaurant is a single room with kitchen furniture and old film posters.’
    • ‘Does Mr Underhill and his partner really expect us to believe the whole family are cramped into a single room?’
    • ‘He lay on his faded blue quilt in his single room in Comstock Hall and tried to reason with himself.’
    • ‘Now it was warmer in the cabin's single room, and Adam had lit a lamp to forestall the gathering gloom.’
    • ‘It is interesting to see how the artists have left their imprint on the small single room.’
    1. 3.1British (of a ticket) valid for an outward journey only, not for the return.
      ‘a first-class single ticket’
      • ‘I was reduced to spelling out each letter of the name while the clerk typed them into his console, which soon issued a single ticket.’
      • ‘In the grand old days of British Rail, a single train ticket was at least the same price as a return, often more, which was silly.’
      • ‘Trouble is, single tickets are going up to £2.’
      • ‘The £11 cash value of a single ticket was then removed, and the money was amassed over a long period of time.’
      • ‘First of all, it's the prices: £55.00 for a single ticket from Manchester to Norwich.’
    2. 3.2(of a flower) having only one whorl of petals.
      ‘the individual blooms can be single, semi-double, or fully double’
      • ‘Flower form can be single, semi-double, or fully double blooms that look similar to miniature roses.’
    3. 3.3Denoting an alcoholic drink that consists of one measure of spirits.
      ‘a single whisky’
      • ‘What we're talking about is a middy of beer, or a small glass of wine, or a single measure of spirits.’
      • ‘A single unit is half-a-pint of beer, a small glass of wine or a single measure of spirits.’
  • 4archaic Free from duplicity or deceit; ingenuous.

    ‘a pure and single heart’
    • ‘We must learn to have not only a clean and right heart but also a pure and single heart.’


  • 1An individual person or thing rather than part of a pair or a group.

    • ‘The end result is a photography of mythical proportions that is camouflaged in paint and operates in singles rather than multiples.’
    • ‘It is sold in singles for $5.95, with complete instructions to make the style of tassel shown here.’
    1. 1.1A short record or CD featuring one main song or track.
      • ‘But then according to Alanis herself, this album wasn't merely about creating a singles collection, but rather an album of personal favourites and rarer material.’
      • ‘The Doves it seems live are more of a singles rather than album band.’
      • ‘I'm coming round to the skittering drumming on that new single.’
      • ‘It wasn't even an album, rather a compilation of singles put together by some Brits in the '70s.’
      • ‘Chris tells me that he's been working hard on recording the single during recent weeks and is very happy with the end result.’
      • ‘Earlier this year they signed a deal with AmbientLive Records in the UK to release two singles and an album.’
      • ‘There may be thousands of vinyl singles and long-playing albums stacked on shelves in the radio's library - but the days of loading vinyl on to a turntable are long gone.’
      • ‘I've already been rather self-indulgent and included not one but two of his singles in my earlier listing, but that's not going to put me off telling you more about this album.’
      • ‘She has already notched up three top 10 singles and is currently recording her second album in London.’
      • ‘However, last year he wrote a massive UK hit single, which went on to sell very well internationally.’
      • ‘The greatest hits is still on sale and another box set - singles from 1980 to 1982 - is out at the end of the month.’
      • ‘But his family have paid for him to spend four days in a professional studio later this year and he intends to record a single.’
      • ‘Fame is winning a televised talent show with a song, and then releasing a couple of singles and an album or two.’
      • ‘In the record industry, you are only as good as your last hit single.’
      • ‘We don't write songs as singles, and both this album and the next one will just be a collection of songs.’
      • ‘In the meantime, we must make do with his second indie single, the rather wonderful If You Want.’
      • ‘When a single from that first record, Arab Boy, became a hit in Iceland, Björk was teased for being different.’
      • ‘‘In The Army Now’ leads to another world tour and more hit singles.’
      • ‘His band's debut single entered the charts this week and music experts are tipping it for the number one spot.’
      • ‘I Wanna Hold Your Hand became their fastest selling single - one million copies were sold in the first three weeks.’
    2. 1.2People who are unmarried or not involved in a stable sexual relationship.
      ‘the divorce rate is rising so you'll see more singles in their late 30s and early 40s’
      [as modifier] ‘a singles holiday’
      • ‘All the profiles are from real singles seeking sincere relationships and will always remain that way.’
      • ‘Finding a mate might be easier, but moving to a committed relationship is less likely, those roaming free in the singles world say.’
      • ‘Bruce believes the business is successful because of the growing number of professional couples, families and young singles who do not have time for DIY.’
      • ‘Both developments were designed for singles or couples.’
      • ‘Tad has no girlfriend and not a prospect in sight - the most recent woman he dated dumped him because she felt he was too involved in the singles scene.’
      • ‘I myself ran a popular singles group for a couple of years once so I recognize the behaviour of which he speaks.’
      • ‘They believe that the advent of online match-making, lonely heart adverts and singles' events are little more than a cynical ploy by the dating industry to get people to spend cash.’
      • ‘Two-thirds of us brush before bed, while twice as many divorced people than singles consider clean teeth a key decider on whether someone is attractive or not.’
      • ‘But she spends a lot of time e-mailing and texting to pair up Jewish singles like Devorah and Jake.’
      • ‘The UK's singles want relationships that don't involve their partners actually moving in, a new BBC survey has revealed.’
      • ‘Many readers probably heard this speech from Mom or Dad before they took off for a singles condo with its own yoga room and EST support group.’
      • ‘However, Scripture also affirms to singles, couples and the parents of future single adults that being single can be just as honourable, and frequently preferable.’
      • ‘It is not filled with floating singles looking to be picked up, but rather one gets the impression that everybody knows everybody else there.’
      • ‘It was once known for being a popular haunt of singles but in recent times it has become a sought after resort for families.’
      • ‘I mentally sorted the new arrivals into couples, singles, and potential ‘temporary singles.’’
      • ‘That explains why Dove, when interviewing marriageable singles, always tries to discover how far they are prepared to assume the traditional family roles.’
      • ‘Few and far between were the desperate, overeager chat-up lines of some relationship-hungry singles.’
      • ‘The grandmother was definitely not looking for love in the aisles of Asda's West Swindon branch during the store's singles night.’
      • ‘But this book may be especially valuable for singles - particularly self-loathing singles.’
      • ‘He has publish Ebooks and articles on psychology, singles, relationships and Popular Culture.’
    3. 1.3British A ticket that is valid only for an outward journey.
      • ‘I could have bought a single on the train.’
    4. 1.4A bedroom, especially in a hotel, that is suitable for one person.
      • ‘The second bedroom is a single with a built-in vanity unit and both of these rooms have en suite shower rooms.’
      • ‘One of the other two bedrooms is a single; the other is currently used as a home office - this has a view of the sea.’
      • ‘The bedroom accommodation consists of two double bedrooms and a single.’
      • ‘Both of the other bedrooms are spacious singles.’
      • ‘Upstairs two bedrooms are doubles and feature original cast iron fireplaces while the third bedroom is a single.’
    5. 1.5A single measure of spirits.
      • ‘Last night a Wetherspoon spokesman admitted that offering doubles rather than singles was standard practice in all the company's pubs.’
    6. 1.6US informal A one-dollar note.
      • ‘Do you have any singles?’
  • 2A play that scores one point, in particular.

    1. 2.1Cricket A hit for one run.
      • ‘Needing to win the second set to reach the final, the York pair were rocked as the Erewash pair notched three successive singles to lead 3-1.’
      • ‘He got there by guiding the 131st ball he faced, from Irfan Pathan, to square leg for a single.’
      • ‘Laker and Bailey started towards the ball, hesitated, and the batsmen scrambled a single.’
      • ‘He provided his usual limpet-like support for Lara, working the singles, and being content to feed the strike, as they added 169 in just over 30 overs.’
      • ‘The pair managed three singles before the last wicket fell to leave Morecambe beaten.’
    2. 2.2Baseball A hit which allows the batter to proceed safely to first base.
      • ‘The next batter hits a line-drive single to right past an outstretched second baseman.’
      • ‘Granted, groundball pitchers tend to give up more hits than flyball pitchers, but the extra hits generally go for singles rather than homers.’
      • ‘This is a game that you'll win by hitting lots of singles and doubles rather than home runs.’
      • ‘The Yanks elected to intentionally walk Hunter, and a Koskie single loaded the bases.’
      • ‘He gave up a pair of singles to Hank Blalock and Michael Young leading off the inning before he was relieved by Troy Percival.’
  • 3(especially in tennis and badminton) a game or competition for individual players, not pairs or teams.

    • ‘The result also keeps Scotland in contention for the coveted Leonard Trophy, awarded to the nation with the best overall-points total from the singles, pairs, triples and fours.’
    • ‘They would have loved to win the singles title rather than end up with another of those doubles titles.’
    • ‘With his exit from the men's singles yesterday another denizen of the baseline bit Wimbledon dust.’
    • ‘It is planned to have men's singles and women's singles starting on the morning of Saturday, September 6, with men's and women's doubles on the following morning.’
    • ‘In today's singles, it is a matter of when rather than if the winning putt is sunk.’
  • 4Bell Ringing
    A system of change-ringing in which one pair of bells changes places at each round.

    • ‘Choose your bell and choose another with whom you're going to make the singles.’


  • 1Choose someone or something from a group for special treatment.

    ‘one newspaper was singled out for criticism’
    • ‘The Black Bay Small Farmers Association and the Belle Vue Farmers Cooperative were singled out for special mention.’
    • ‘So approached, there is nothing in Mr Taylor's identity which singles him out for differential treatment.’
    • ‘No, John has been singled out for special mention because he admitted that, while at Murrayfield, he had supported a structure for professional rugby which he feels now is no longer sustainable.’
    • ‘‘Because blacks are protected under the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment, to single black students out - even for their own benefit - is clearly unconstitutional,’ Goldberg said.’
    • ‘It feels like we have been singled out for this treatment.’
    • ‘And in mass lay-offs, it will be tougher to convince the boss to single you out for better treatment.’
    • ‘Will he single me out as well for the same sort of treatment?’
    • ‘In particular, I was delighted to read that the Airedale partnership had been singled out for a special mention.’
    • ‘Ultimately, under the Court's decision, a successful plaintiff will have to prove she was singled out for disadvantageous treatment in the workplace.’
    • ‘By Burns' actual toast to women, the ringleader, having made inquiries, singled me out by name and nationality.’
    • ‘Nothing unusual in that, but what singles Doctorow out for special mention is that as well as the book being available in bookshops, it is also available to download - for free.’
    • ‘Because they are too painfully close, like a rival sibling (and - may I add - because they have always been so weak), we have singled them out for special treatment.’
    • ‘We need to discuss his little article, which starts as a review of Razor Magazine and then sort of singles me out with screaming caps and artless lines.’
    • ‘Central Library was singled out for criticism, and labelled ‘shabby, untidy and unwelcoming’.’
    • ‘Viewed differently from German-Americans and Italian-Americans, Japanese residents were singled out for special treatment.’
    • ‘Consequently, the extremists have singled him out for special treatment.’
    • ‘He wondered who this man was, and more importantly, why he had singled his parents out for such treatment.’
    • ‘Their ability to adapt in previously unknown situations may single them out favourably in their bosses' eyes.’
    • ‘She did not intend to travel fraudulently or avoid payment, she told the court, adding that she believed the conductor singled her out because she challenged his treatment of the other traveller.’
    • ‘I cite these scholars not to single them out for criticism - all are important and courageous liberal voices - but as illustrations of a larger trend.’
    select, pick out, fix on, choose, decide on
    target, earmark
    mark out, distinguish, differentiate, separate out, set apart, set aside, put aside
    View synonyms
  • 2Thin out (seedlings or saplings)

    ‘hand hoes are used for singling roots’
    • ‘There is pea picking and hop picking, and occasionally a little weeding, singling roots, and picking potatoes, and helping at hay harvest.’
  • 3Reduce (a railway track) to a single line.

    ‘the South Western line was singled west of Salisbury’
    • ‘Significant changes occurred to the line in May 1965, when the line was singled.’
  • 4Baseball
    [no object] Hit a single.

    ‘Cohen singled to centre’
    • ‘Sandberg singled to left center, moving Hebner to third.’
    • ‘Millar greeted Clemens with a first-pitch homer to left-field, Nixon worked a walk, and Bill Mueller singled to center as Nixon took third.’
    • ‘When Tony Womack escaped a full count by singling to center with two outs, I figured Jim Tracy would cue Gagne, but he let Lima press onward against the dangerous Walker.’
    • ‘Given another life, Alomar singled to center which led to a four-run rally and Toronto went on to a 12-7 win.’
    • ‘D Johnson singled to right center, J Payton to third.’
    1. 4.1[with object]Cause (a run) to be scored by hitting a single.
      • ‘He gave up three runs and nine hits but singled home the Pirates' first run for his first RBI of the season.’
      • ‘In the home sixth inning, Yaz tied the game with a two-run single and Harrelson singled home the lead run.’
      • ‘The next night, he hit a pair of two-run homers and singled home the winning run in the eighth inning.’
      • ‘In Washington, Jeffrey Hammonds singled home the winning run for the Nationals with one out in the ninth inning.’
      • ‘At Cleveland, pinch-hitter Victor Martinez singled home the go-ahead run in the eighth inning, leading Cleveland past Cincinnati.’
    2. 4.2[with object]Advance (a runner) by hitting a single.
      • ‘Let's say the Angels have Darin Erstad on second base and one out when Tim Salmon singles him home in the eighth inning, breaking a 2-2 tie.’
      • ‘With one out in the St. Louis half of the first, Jim Delsing doubled and Lollar singled him home.’
      • ‘Matsui finally gained some redemption in the fifth, singling home Williams from second after the Yankee centerfielder had doubled.’
      • ‘Reyes scored three runs and stole two bases, and his triple in the seventh inning tied the score before Carlos Beltran singled him home with the go-ahead run.’
      • ‘Just as I was disparaging Cristian Guzman, he ripped a double down the third-base line, then little Augie Ojeda singled him home.’


Middle English: via Old French from Latin singulus, related to simplus simple.