- Said of a person who has potential that is never fulfilled.
Also commonly used more literally, of a woman who assumedly has acted as bridesmaid at weddings but has not yet married. An assumption of personal desire to marry is implied - as is, in general terms, the desirability of marriage. Use of the phrase may constitute or be construed as social pressure to marry.
Coined in 1925 as often a bridesmaid but never a bride for use in a United States advertisement for Listerine mouthwash (implying that the use of mouthwash could improve a woman's chances of marriage).