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[gey] /geɪ/
adjective, gayer, gayest
of, pertaining to, or exhibiting sexual desire or behavior directed toward a person or persons of one's own sex; homosexual:
a gay couple.
of, indicating, or supporting homosexual interests or issues:
a gay organization.
having or showing a merry, lively mood:
gay spirits; gay music.
bright or showy:
gay colors; gay ornaments.
Slang: Often Disparaging and Offensive. awkward, stupid, or bad; lame:
This game is really gay.
Slang. inappropriately forward or bold; overly familiar; reckless:
Emboldened by his earlier success, George got gay, got way way waaay ahead of himself, and got clobbered.
given to or abounding in social or other pleasures:
a gay social season.
sexually unrestrained; having loose morals:
The baron is a gay old rogue with an eye for the ladies.
  1. (used especially of women and especially in poetry) beautiful, lofty, noble, or excellent:
    The learned man hath got the lady gay.
  2. excellent; top-notch:
    a gay and lofty mind.
Sometimes Offensive. a homosexual person, especially a male.
in a gay manner.
1275-1325; Middle English gai < Old French < Germanic; compare Old High German gāhi ‘fast, sudden’
Related forms
gayness, noun
nongay, adjective
quasi-gay, adjective
Synonym Study
3.Gay, jolly, joyful, merry describe a happy or light-hearted mood. Gay suggests a lightness of heart or liveliness of mood that is openly manifested: when hearts were young and gay. Jolly indicates a good-humored, natural, expansive gaiety of mood or disposition: a jolly crowd at a party. Joyful suggests gladness, happiness, rejoicing: joyful over the good news. Merry is often interchangeable with gay: a merry disposition; a merry party; it suggests, even more than the latter, convivial animated enjoyment.
Usage note
In addition to its original and continuing senses of “merry, lively” and “bright or showy,” gay has had various senses dealing with sexual conduct since the 17th century. A gay woman was a prostitute, a gay man a womanizer, a gay house a brothel. This sexual world included homosexuals too, and gay as an adjective meaning “homosexual” goes back at least to the late 1930s. After World War II, as social attitudes toward sexuality began to change, gay was applied openly by homosexuals to themselves, first as an adjective and later as a noun. It is no longer considered slang. Today, the noun often designates only a male homosexual and is usually used as a collective plural: gays and lesbians . Usage as a singular noun is uncommon and is sometimes perceived as insulting: He came out as a gay.
In contrast, gay in the sense “awkward, stupid, or bad” is often used with disparaging intent and perceived as insulting to gay people. Though some have argued that this sense is independent of the “homosexual” sense, and therefore not homophobic, the argument is weakened by the fact that “homosexual” has long been the dominant meaning of gay, and thus permeates its other usages. See also homosexual.


[gey] /geɪ/
John, 1685–1732, English poet and dramatist.
a female or male given name. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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British Dictionary definitions for gay


  1. homosexual
  2. of or for homosexuals a gay club
  1. carefree and merry a gay temperament
  2. brightly coloured; brilliant a gay hat
  3. given to pleasure, esp in social entertainment a gay life
a homosexual
Derived Forms
gayness, noun
Usage note
Gayness is the word used to refer to homosexuality. The noun which refers to being carefree and merry is gaiety
Word Origin
C13: from Old French gai, from Old Provençal, of Germanic origin


John. 1685–1732, English poet and dramatist; author of The Beggar's Opera (1728)
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for gay
1178, "full of joy or mirth," from O.Fr. gai "gay, merry" (12c.); cf. O.Sp. gayo, Port. gaio, It. gajo. Ultimate origin disputed; perhaps from Frank. *gahi (cf. O.H.G. wahi "pretty"), though not all etymologists accept this. Meaning "brilliant, showy" is from c.1300. OED gives 1951 as earliest date for slang meaning "homosexual" (adj.), but this is certainly too late; gey cat "homosexual boy" is attested in N. Erskine's 1933 dictionary of "Underworld & Prison Slang;" the term gey cat (gey is a Scot. variant of gay) was used as far back as 1893 in Amer.Eng. for "young hobo," one who is new on the road and usually in the company of an older tramp, with catamite connotations. But Josiah Flynt ["Tramping With Tramps," 1905] defines gay cat as, "An amateur tramp who works when his begging courage fails him." Gey cats also were said to be tramps who offered sexual services to women. The "Dictionary of American Slang" reports that gay (adj.) was used by homosexuals, among themselves, in this sense since at least 1920. Rawson ["Wicked Words"] notes a male prostitute using gay in reference to male homosexuals (but also to female prostitutes) in London's notorious Cleveland Street Scandal of 1889. Ayto ["20th Century Words"] calls attention to the ambiguous use of the word in the 1868 song "The Gay Young Clerk in the Dry Goods Store," by U.S. female impersonator Will S. Hays. The word gay in the 1890s had an overall tinge of promiscuity -- a gay house was a brothel. The suggestion of immorality in the word can be traced back to 1637. Gay as a noun meaning "a (usually male) homosexual" is attested from 1971.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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gay in Medicine

gay (gā)
Relating to a homosexual or the lifestyle thereof. n.
A homosexual, especially male.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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gay in Culture

gay definition

Descriptive term for homosexuals.

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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Slang definitions & phrases for gay


  1. Homosexual; homoerotic: gay men and women/ gay attitudes (1920s+ Homosexuals)
  2. Intended for or used by homosexuals: gay bar/ gay movies (1920+ Homosexuals)
  3. Ugly; corny, weird: The clarinet player looked totally gay in his USC band uniform (1980s+ Students)

A male homosexual or a lesbian •Widely used by heterosexuals in preference to pejorative terms: a hideaway for live-together couples and middle-aged gays (1920s+ Homosexuals)

[perhaps by extension fr earlier British gay, ''leading a whore's life'']

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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