The word bachelor was borrowed in the thirteenth century from the Old French noun bachelier, which was used to refer to squires who were training for knighthood. The word became associated with unmarried men because, in the Victorian era, many squires were eligible for marriage and desired for their good social standing. That comes from Latin bacchalarius, which meant "vassal" or "serf", and ultimately might have connections to vacca, the word for "cow", although that's uncertain. The terms bachelor's degree and baccalaureate resulted from medieval scholars (either due to folk etymology or word play) confusing bachelier with the Latin phrase bacca lauri, which meant "laurel berry", since laurels were awarded for academic successes. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, bachelor could also refer to fur seals or roofing slates.
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a senior studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy trivia, politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.