This word for an “unmarried man” has had several meanings over the centuries. The English word bachelor comes from the Old French bacheler, meaning a “young man.” The word ultimately comes from Latin *baccalaris (the asterisk designated a root that has been reconstructed but is not found in extant literature). The word may be connected to baccalaria, a division of land, hence a bachelor may have originally been a “man who owns land.” The root ultimately comes from bacca, or “cow,” and baccalaria may originally have meant “cow farm.”
The English word appears around the year 1300 in the sense of a “young man.” From The Early South-English Legendary found in Bodleian Library MS. Laud Misc. 108:
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Tweye Ioliue louerdingues [...] Þis tweiye yongue men [...] þis twei wilde Bachilers.
(Two jolly lords [...] These two young men [...] These two wild bachelors.)
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