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[kweer] /kwɪər/
adjective, queerer, queerest.
strange or odd from a conventional viewpoint; unusually different; singular:
a queer notion of justice.
of a questionable nature or character; suspicious; shady:
Something queer about the language of the prospectus kept investors away.
not feeling physically right or well; giddy, faint, or qualmish:
to feel queer.
mentally unbalanced or deranged.
Slang: Disparaging and Offensive.
  1. homosexual.
  2. noting or relating to a person who does not conform to a normative sexual orientation or gender identity.
  3. effeminate; unmanly.
Slang. bad, worthless, or counterfeit.
verb (used with object)
to spoil; ruin.
to put (a person) in a hopeless or disadvantageous situation as to success, favor, etc.
to jeopardize.
Slang: Disparaging and Offensive.
  1. a contemptuous term used to refer to a homosexual, especially a male homosexual.
  2. a contemptuous term used to refer to a person who does not conform to a normative sexual orientation or gender identity, as a bisexual.
Slang. counterfeit money.
queer the pitch, British Informal. to spoil the chances of success.
Origin of queer
1500-10; perhaps < German quer oblique, cross, adverse
Related forms
queerly, adverb
queerness, noun
1. unconventional, curious, freakish, eccentric, weird. See strange.
1. ordinary.
Usage note
Since the early 20th century, queer has had the meaning “homosexual,” and for much of the time has been used with disparaging intent and perceived as insulting. The term has more recently come to include any persons whose sexuality or gender identity falls outside the heterosexual mainstream. Since the 1980s, queer has increasingly been adopted as a preferred term by young or radical homosexuals and in the academic community: queer bars and nightclubs; scholars of queer studies. In the mainstream homosexual community, however, gay and lesbian remain the terms of choice. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for queer
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • queer, too, how mossy the tree trunks are on the north sides.

    A Daughter of the Forest Evelyn Raymond
  • "queer he had energy enough to tell me that much," remarked Bart, as he moved off.

    Frank Roscoe's Secret Allen Chapman
  • queer how people will look right over the top of what they don't want to see, ain't it?

    Flood Tide Sara Ware Bassett
  • queer sort of wheeze to say 'hyphen' in a chap's name as if it were a word, when it wasn't at all.

    Ruggles of Red Gap Harry Leon Wilson
  • queer how things will get mixed up sometimes when theres a wreck.

  • "queer freak for a woman to live there all alone, anyhow," observed Jeb.

    Frank Merriwell's Cruise Burt L. Standish
  • queer thing, though, looking after a Johnnie old enough to be your grandfather isn't it?

    Soldiers Three Rudyard Kipling
British Dictionary definitions for queer


differing from the normal or usual in a way regarded as odd or strange
suspicious, dubious, or shady
faint, giddy, or queasy
(informal, taboo) homosexual
(informal) odd or unbalanced mentally; eccentric or slightly mad
(slang) worthless or counterfeit
(informal, taboo) a homosexual, usually a male
verb (transitive) (informal)
to spoil or thwart (esp in the phrase queer someone's pitch)
to put in a difficult or dangerous position
Derived Forms
queerish, adjective
queerly, adverb
queerness, noun
Usage note
Although the term queer meaning homosexual is still considered highly offensive when used by non-homosexuals, it is often used by homosexuals themselves as a positive term, as in queer politics, queer cinema
Word Origin
C16: perhaps from German quer oblique, ultimately from Old High German twērh
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 queer

c.1500, "strange, peculiar, eccentric," from Scottish, perhaps from Low German (Brunswick dialect) queer "oblique, off-center," related to German quer "oblique, perverse, odd," from Old High German twerh "oblique," from PIE root *terkw- "to turn, twist, wind" (see thwart (adv.)).

Sense of "homosexual" first recorded 1922; the noun in this sense is 1935, from the adjective. Related: Queerly. Queer studies as an academic discipline attested from 1994.


"to spoil, ruin," 1812, from queer (adj.). Related: Queered; queering. Earlier it meant "to puzzle, ridicule, cheat" (1790). To queer the pitch (1846) is in reference to the patter of an itinerant tradesman or showman (see pitch (n.1)).

These wanderers, and those who are still seen occasionally in the back streets of the metropolis, are said to 'go a-pitching ;' the spot they select for their performance is their 'pitch,' and any interruption of their feats, such as an accident, or the interference of a policeman, is said to 'queer the pitch,'--in other words, to spoil it. [Thomas Frost, "Circus Life and Circus Celebrities," London, 1875]

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for queer



  1. Counterfeit (1740+)
  2. Homosexual; camp, gay •In the early 1990s queer was adopted as a nonpejorative designation by some homosexuals, in the spirit of ''gay pride'': Some girls said that I was queer (1922+)


  1. (also the queer)Counterfeit money: eagle-eyed concessionaires always on the lookout for the queer (Underworld 1900s+); (1812+)
  2. (also queerie): a lot of queeries in the State Department (1932+)


To spoil; ruin; goof up: Food is what queered the party (late 1700s+ British); (1812+)

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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