blue·​stock·​ing ˈblü-ˌstä-kiŋ How to pronounce bluestocking (audio)
: a woman having intellectual or literary interests

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In mid-18th century England, a group of ladies decided to replace evenings of card playing and idle chatter with "conversation parties," inviting illustrious men of letters to discuss literary and intellectual topics with them. One regular guest was scholar-botanist Benjamin Stillingfleet. His hostesses willingly overlooked his cheap blue worsted stockings (a type disdained by the elite) in order to have the benefit of his lively conversation. Those who considered it inappropriate for women to aspire to learning derisively called the group the "Blue Stocking Society." The women who were the original bluestockings rose above the attempted put-down and adopted the epithet as a name for members of their society.

Examples of bluestocking in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The parents—a dapper young fogy with ramrod posture and a soulful, slightly rumpled bluestocking—stand behind two tidy little girls in matching sailor suits. Judith Thurman, The New Yorker, 11 Sep. 2023 But the most charming of all are West's distinctive set of sisters — a hopeless romantic, a bluestocking, a fashion maven, a tomboy, and a perfect lady. Maureen Lee Lenker,, 17 Nov. 2022 One of them was the famous 18th-century bluestocking Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, wife of Edward Montagu, a British ambassador. David Pryce-Jones, WSJ, 19 Aug. 2022 His polar opposite, meanwhile, was the pair of bluestockings to his left. Nicholas M. Gallagher, National Review, 21 Mar. 2020 Astrid hews to ideas that earn her the label of bluestocking, but Howard makes those qualities utterly desirable in Thane’s eyes. Maureen Lee Lenker,, 3 Dec. 2019 Bluestockings Bookstore/Cafe, 172 Allen St, NYC 10002. Bruce Sterling, WIRED, 6 Feb. 2007 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'bluestocking.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Bluestocking society, 18th century literary clubs

First Known Use

1780, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of bluestocking was in 1780


Dictionary Entries Near bluestocking

Cite this Entry

“Bluestocking.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Sep. 2023.

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