Definition of gay in English:



  • 1(of a person, especially a man) homosexual.

    • ‘Legal skirmishes can be expected across the country as gay couples seek recognition of their new marriage licenses.’
    • ‘He would end the ban on openly gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals serving in the armed forces.’
    • ‘The pop star hit the headlines a decade ago when he came out as a gay man.’
    • ‘When it came down to it, I didn't have a choice about being gay: I was gay and always had been.’
    • ‘I'm not gay, but I think gay people should be left alone to marry whoever they like.’
    • ‘It's not exactly a secret that she is gay.’
    • ‘You might act straight but I bet your mother always knew you were gay.’
    • ‘As a gay man I find his comments quite funny - good for him to be brave enough to express his honest opinion.’
    • ‘In the first of this two-part series, he reflects on how much has changed for gay people during his lifetime.’
    • ‘Seven other states allow gay couples to join in civil unions that have full marriage benefits.’
    • ‘Knowing that my son is gay prompted me to consider the issue from another perspective.’
    • ‘I'm gay and happy to be so.’
    • ‘She admits that she only told her daughters she was gay three years ago.’
    • ‘Society is really changing - people are moving along and accepting gay athletes.’
    • ‘Nothing anyone has ever said or done has ever for a moment made me anything less than glad to be gay.’
    lesbian, sapphic, lesbigay
    glbt, gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered
    homophile, uranian
    pink, lavender, camp, lezzy, les, lesbo, butch, dykey
    queer, limp-wristed, that way, swinging the other way, homo
    bent, poofy
    homosexual, lesbian, sapphic, lesbigay
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    1. 1.1Relating to or used by homosexuals.
      ‘a gay bar’
      • ‘Their partnership was one of the first openly gay relationships portrayed in popular media.’
      • ‘The city has a vibrant gay scene, and many of the pubs and clubs have a mixed clientele.’
      • ‘He was spotted in a gay bar in Washington, DC.’
      • ‘It is also home to a thriving, resilient and somewhat embattled, lesbian and gay community, with five gay bars, a gay theatre, and a community centre.’
      • ‘I've always written about the gay experience as part of the continuum of the world.’
      • ‘He goes on to say that the support of the gay community means the world to him.’
      • ‘After finding a gay community on-line, I became much happier.’
      • ‘Check out the local phone book for gay bars and gay bookstores.’
      • ‘Prepare to encounter celebrities, the party set and a lively gay scene as well as terrific beaches and the bluest sea.’
      • ‘When I lived in Boston there were few gay bars, as everyone there just mixed in straight clubs.’
      • ‘I have always been a strong proponent of gay parenting and adoption.’
      • ‘You may find yourself feeling at ease, happy and relaxed by the cheerful non-threatening atmosphere of a gay venue.’
  • 2dated Light-hearted and carefree.

    ‘Nan had a gay disposition and a very pretty face’
    • ‘And she laughed, laughed at how happy, gay, and carefree her tone sounded.’
    • ‘He keeps the energy level high and the actors gay and carefree in a successful attempt to create a pleasurable musical.’
    • ‘The musicians arrived and began to strike up the lively harps, lutes, joyful drums and gay flutes.’
    • ‘Some people cannot take criticism, and expect everything to always be happy and gay.’
    • ‘Yes I know this must come as a shock to you since I am normally such a gay and carefree chap, brimming with chuckles and mirth.’
    cheerful, cheery, merry, jolly, light-hearted, mirthful, jovial, glad, happy, bright, in good spirits, in high spirits, joyful, elated, exuberant, animated, lively, sprightly, vivacious, buoyant, bouncy, bubbly, perky, effervescent, playful, frolicsome
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  • 3dated Brightly coloured; showy.

    ‘a gay profusion of purple and pink sweet peas’
    • ‘He was decked out in a bright orange suit with a gay, orange floral tie.’
    • ‘It was quite a sight, after the War and four years of dreary austerity in England, to see girls whirling round the dance floor in pretty full-length evening dresses in gay colours.’
    • ‘The commercial area was especially gay, decorated with countless coloured lights.’
    • ‘The picture was all the more poignant for me because of the stark contrast offered by the youngsters' skeletal bodies and the gay colours and rich decoration of their mothers' dresses.’
    • ‘So, uh, is the uniform jet black and sombre or colourful and gay?’
    bright, brightly coloured, vivid, brilliant, rich, vibrant
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  • 4informal, offensive Foolish, stupid, or unimpressive.

    ‘he thinks the obsession with celebrity is totally gay’


  • A homosexual, especially a man.

    • ‘There hasn't been a time in modern history when gays haven't been persecuted.’
    • ‘My attitude is that gays and lesbians should have access and opportunity the same way everybody else does, in every institution and walk of life.’
    • ‘She began by telling her parents that she was planning a documentary film on gays and lesbians in India.’
    • ‘Discrimination against lesbians and gays in other areas of life is also commonplace.’
    • ‘The issue of gays serving in the military is one that is both controversial and divisive.’
    • ‘Why not once and for all protect gays from discrimination in the workplace?’
    • ‘For years closeted gays have lived straight lives.’
    • ‘Black gays and lesbians often experience discrimination because of their race and their sexual orientation.’
    • ‘Gays want to get married, have children, and go to church.’
    • ‘The commission suspects hate crimes against gays, lesbians, and transgender people are under-reported.’
    • ‘John is a repressed gay living with his old mum.’
    • ‘Minnesota has a statewide law protecting gays from discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations.’
    homosexual, lesbian, gay person, lesbigay
    invert, homophile, uranian
    queen, friend of dorothy, dyke, les, lesbo, lezzie, butch, femme
    queer, homo, pansy, nancy, bumboy, nelly
    poof, poofter, ponce, jessie, woofter, shirtlifter, bender
    cupcake, swish, twinkie
    batty boy, batty man
    homosexual, lesbian, sapphic, lesbigay
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Gay meaning ‘homosexual’ became established in the 1960s as the term preferred by homosexual men to describe themselves. It is now the standard accepted term throughout the English-speaking world. As a result, the centuries-old other senses of gay meaning either ‘carefree’ or ‘bright and showy’ have more or less dropped out of natural use. The word gay cannot be readily used today in these older senses without arousing a sense of double entendre, despite concerted attempts by some to keep them alive. Gay in its modern sense typically refers to men (lesbian being the standard term for homosexual women) but in some contexts it can be used of both men and women.


Middle English (in gay): from Old French gai, of unknown origin.