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gay, adj., adv., and n.

Pronunciation:  Brit. /ɡeɪ/ , U.S. /ɡeɪ/
Forms:  ME gaȝe, ME–15 gai, ME–16 gaie, ME–16 gaye, ME– gay, 19– gey (nonstandard); also Eng. regional 18– gaay, 18– gah (Suffolk); also Sc. 15 18– gey, 18 gae. See also gey adv. and adj.(Show Less)
Etymology:  < Anglo-Norman gai, gaye and Old French, Middle French gai (in Old French occas. also jai  ; French gai  ) (of a person) happy, cheerful, (of a face, etc.) that expresses gaiety (second half of the 11th cent.), amorous (c1160), carefree, frivolous, fickle (c1165), licentious, lascivious, lewd (c1165), (of an animal's coat) speckled (c1170), (of the human body) good looking (c1220), (of a horse) spirited, frisky (c1230), (of the colour green) bright, yellowish (in vert gai  , c1300), (of a colour) that creates or inspires gaiety (1382), probably (although this is disputed by some) < Old High German gāhi   rapid, fast, sudden, surprising, fleeting (Middle High German gāch  ,  , gaehe  , German jäh  ), further etymology uncertain. Compare (probably also < Old High German gāhi  ) Old Occitan gai  , jai   joyful (a1126; also as noun, jai  , gai   joy (a1168)), and also ( < French or Occitan) Catalan gai   (c1272), Spanish gayo   (15th cent.; 14th cent., or perhaps 13th cent., as noun), Portuguese gaio   (1258 as the name of a person), Italian gaio   (13th cent.). On the etymology of the French word (and its relationship with the Occitan word) see further discussion and summary of other theories in Dictionnaire étymologique de l'ancien français s.v. gai (for a notable divergent view, rejecting a Germanic etymology completely, see J. Coromines Diccionari Etimològic i Complementari de la Llengua Catalana at that entry). The senses at A. 2   apparently do not have an exact parallel in French, and may show a development within English. In the gay science at sense A. 3c   ultimately after Old Occitan, Occitan gai saber, †gai sauber (1343), gaya sciensa (c1340); compare French gai savoir   (1845), gaie science   (1694). See also gey adv. and adj.
The relationship between the various subsenses of sense A. 4   is difficult to establish from the available evidence. It seems most likely that the ‘homosexual’ sense A. 4d   was primarily a development of sense A. 4b, especially of its connotations of hedonism and lack of inhibition, while the ‘prostitution’ sense A. 4c   was a separate development from sense A. 4b. In quot. 1889 at sense A. 4c   gay   is used by a male prostitute of people engaged in prostitution, but not specifically in the sense ‘homosexual’ (compare quot. 1890 at sense A. 4c, quoting the same source). Some examples of gay cat n. at Special uses 2a   imply a relationship with an older tramp involving sexual favours (compare punk n.1 2b, gunsel n. 1), but this cannot be taken as earlier evidence that gay   itself was being used in the sense ‘homosexual’. However, early discomfiture among some homosexuals about the adoption of gay   to describe themselves was based on the word's associations both with prostitution (sense A. 4c) and with frivolity and promiscuousness (sense A. 4b): see, for example, discussion by R. R. Butters ‘Cary Grant and the emergence of gay “homosexual”’ in Dictionaries 19 (1998) 188–204.
Support has not been established for statements such as the following about supposed earlier use in French (dictionaries of French only record the sense ‘homosexual’ for gai   as a very recent (late 20th-cent.) Anglicism of disputed acceptance, following earlier (unassimilated) borrowing of the English word in this sense as French gay  ):
1953   ‘D. W. Cory’ Homosexual Outlook ix. 107   In France as early as the sixteenth century the homosexual was called gaie; significantly enough, the feminine form was used to describe the male. The word made its way to England and America, and was used in print in some of the more pornographic literature after the First World War. Psychoanalysts have informed me that their homosexual patients were calling themselves gay in the nineteen-twenties, and certainly by the nineteen-thirties it was the most common word in use among homosexuals themselves.
By the 1960s gay   in the sense ‘homosexual’ (sense A. 4d) had become established as the preferred term of self-reference for many homosexual men. The subsequent more general currency of this sense has led some commentators to claim that this is now the dominant sense of the word, and that gay in its earlier meanings of ‘carefree’ or ‘bright and showy’ cannot readily be used today without at least a sense of double entendre (see discussion in R. W. Burchfield New Fowler's Mod. Eng. Usage (1996) 324).
 A. adj.

 a. Bright or lively-looking, esp. in colour; brilliant, showy.The precise sense intended in quot. ?c1225   is unclear.

?c1225  (▸?a1200)    Ancrene Riwle (Cleo. C.vi) (1972) 127 (margin)    Hwi þe Gay world is to fleon.
a1375   William of Palerne (1867) 1936 (MED),   No man..schuld now deuise men richlier a-raid..to richesse þat þei hadde; þe grete after here degre in þe gaiest wise & menere men as þei miȝt.
c1380   Sir Ferumbras (1879) 1694 (MED),   Oppon þe tour..þar stondeþ a iuwel gay, An egle of gold þat schynaþ briȝt so doþ þe sonne on may.
?a1400  (▸a1338)    R. Mannyng Chron. (Petyt 511) ii. 169 (MED),   Þei sauh fer in þe se A grete busse & gay; fulle hie of saile was he.
c1400  (▸?c1380)    Pearl 260   In þis gardyn gracios gaye.
c1405  (▸c1387–95)    Chaucer Canterbury Tales Prol. (Hengwrt) (2003) l. 111   Vpon his arm he bar a gay bracer.
c1420   Sir Amadace (Camden) lvi,   He come in als gay gere, Ryȝte as he an angelle were.
a1425  (▸?a1300)    Kyng Alisaunder (Linc. Inn) 3185 (MED),   Muche bost was þare, Gret pruyde and gay gere.
1463   in S. Tymms Wills & Inventories Bury St. Edmunds (1850) 41   My best gay cuppe of erthe.
?1507   W. Dunbar Tua Mariit Wemen (Rouen) in Poems (1998) 50   He grathit me in a gay silk and gudly arrayis.
1539   Will of Robert Aslyn (P.R.O.: PROB. 11/27) f. 235,   My gaye potte of glasse.
1573   G. Harvey Let.-bk. (1884) 6   His oun gai gallant gaskins do and wil descri it sufficiently.
1638   F. Junius Painting of Ancients 285   Too much cheerefulnesse of gay and flourishing colours.
1650   J. Bulwer Anthropometamorphosis 260   The Brama's, who delight in such Gay-bables.
1717   Lady M. W. Montagu Let. 1 Apr. (1965) I. 311   The perpetual Spring..makes every thing look gay and flourishing.
1797   A. Radcliffe Italian I. i. 7   In every gay carriage that passed, he hoped to see the object of his constant thought.
1834   E. Bulwer-Lytton Last Days of Pompeii I. i. ii. 9   They were now in that quarter which was filled with the gayest shops.
1842   E. Miall in Nonconformist 2 1   The civil magistrate, dressed in his gayest, approached the altar.
1860   G. W. S. Piesse Lab. Chem. Wonders (1869) 131   The Collinsia verna, a gay, dark purple flower.
1870   E. Peacock Ralf Skirlaugh III. 233   Their costumes were gay with ribbons.
1922   P. G. Wodehouse Adventures of Sally 25   Their female friends and relatives clustered in groups under gay parasols.
1974   Sunday Gleaner (Kingston, Jamaica) 25 Aug. (Mag. section) 3/3 (caption)    Denim goes gay—A boldly embroidered blue denim skirt.
1990   ‘J. Kincaid’ Lucy 5,   I got up and put on a dress, a gay dress made out of madras cloth.

?c1225—1990(Hide quotations)


 b. Finely or showily dressed. Now rare.

a1387   J. Trevisa tr. R. Higden Polychron. (St. John's Cambr.) (1872) IV. 241   Cleopatra made here gay.
c1430  (▸c1380)    Chaucer Parl. Fowls 234   Some ther weere Fayre of hemself, and some of hem were gay.
c1450  (▸?a1400)    Parl. Thre Ages (BL Add. 31042) 615 (MED),   Amadase and Edoyne..in golde and in grene were gaye in thaire tyme.
1509   A. Barclay Brant's Shyp of Folys (Pynson) f. xl,   Wymen..sell theyr soules and bodyes to go gay.
1572   Taill of Rauf Coilȝear (1882) 484   He is the gayest in geir, that euer on ground glaid.
1611   Bible (King James) Baruch vi. 9   And taking golde, as it were for a virgine that loues to go gay, they make crownes for the heads of their gods.
a1616   Shakespeare Othello (1622) ii. i. 153   She that..Neuer lackt gold, and yet went neuer gay.
1766   C. Anstey New Bath Guide xi. vi. 78   Who is that Bombazine Lady so gay, So profuse of her Beauties, in sable Array?
1801   J. Strutt Glig-gamena Angel-ðeod i. i. 7   The king was desirous of knowing the name of this gay gentleman.
1812   J. Wilson Isle of Palms iii. 600   Vaunt not, gay bird! thy gorgeous plume.
1859   Tennyson Enid in Idylls of King 15   The armourer..seeing one so gay in purple silks.
1924   Cape Argus 3 Jan. 8   The quiet streets of Cape Town were enlivened by the marching of troupes of coloured youths, gay in coon costumes.
1932   Men's Dress Reform Party No. 23. 3/1   Mr. Ernest Thesiger pleaded for colour and self-expression... ‘Let us go gay,’ he pleaded.

a1387—1932(Hide quotations)

 2. Noble; beautiful; excellent, fine.

a. Chiefly poet. As a conventional epithet of praise for a woman. Cf. free adj. 3. Obs.

c1325   in G. L. Brook Harley Lyrics (1968) 49 (MED),   Heo is..graciouse, stout, ant gay, gentil, iolyf so þe iay.
a1375   William of Palerne (1867) 816   Whan þe gaye gerles were in-to þe gardin come, Faire floures þei founde of fele maner hewes.
c1400  (▸?c1390)    Sir Gawain & Green Knight (1940) l. 1003 (MED),   Gawan & þe gay burde, to-geder þay seten.
1562   E. Lewicke tr. Boccaccio Titus & Gisippus sig. Bv,   It is (I wyll it not denay) Sophronia the lady gay, Whom Gisippus had chose to wife.
1599   Shakespeare et al. Passionate Pilgrime (new ed.) sig. C4,   The learned man hath got the Lady gay.
a1600   T. Deloney Pleasant Hist. John Winchcomb (1619) sig. E2v,   That day made many a fatherlesse child, and many a widow poore: And many a Scottish gay Lady, sate weeping in her bowre.
1658   T. Bancroft Heroical Lover ii. 16   Some Rusticks..Bluntly inform'd him that a Lady gay, Who in that region bare a Queen-like sway..Did adde much sweetness to their flowery Plains.
1736   S. Wesley Poems Several Occasions 215   Our Landlord has, they say, Long woo'd, and lately wed a Lady gay.
1802   in Scott Minstrelsy Sc. Border II. 124   Prince Robert has wedded a gay ladye, He has wedded her with a ring.

c1325—1802(Hide quotations)


 b. More generally. regional in later use.to have a gay mind : ‘to have a good mind’, to be very much inclined (obs. rare).

a1375   William of Palerne (1867) 1595 (MED),   Swiþe sent he sondes to somoun..alle þe grete of grece and oþer gaie pepul.
c1450   Alphabet of Tales (1904) I. 168 (MED),   Þis lorde had also a gay falcon & a swyfte.
1488  (▸c1478)    Hary Actis & Deidis Schir William Wallace (Adv.) (1968–9) ix. l. 178   A gud gay wynd out off the rycht art com.
?1529   R. Hyrde tr. J. L. Vives Instr. Christen Woman ii. i. sig. T.iiij,   But loke in the same boke, howe goodly & gaye is the preyse of a good woman.
1533   J. Bellenden tr. Livy Hist. Rome (1822) ii. vii. 127   Becaus vertew wes honorit in this wise, it gaif occasioun to wemen to do gay vassalege.
1550   H. Latimer Moste Faithfull Serm. before Kynges Maiestye sig. Fiii,   The concord of brethren, & agreing of brethren is a gay thinge.
1551   T. Wilson Rule of Reason sig. Dviijv,   People whiche haue muche dispraised all temporal lawes..thinkynge it mete that al common weales should onlye haue the gospell, and none other lawe at all. This maye seme to some a gaie saienge, where as in dede it is bothe folishe, and wicked.
1557   Pole in J. Strype Eccl. Mem. III. App. lxviii. 238   Yf you..had suche a gay mynde to restore the ruynes of the Chyrches.
1573   T. Tusser Fiue Hundreth Points Good Husbandry (new ed.) f. 34,   The labor is little, the profit is gaye.
1577   W. Harrison Descr. Eng. (1877) Ded. i. p. cix,   And thus with hope of good although no gaie successe.
1593   Tell-Trothes New-yeares Gift (1876) 38   It is a gay thing to come to dignity.
1611   J. Speed Hist. Great Brit. ix. xviii. 704/2   Here is a gay goodly cast [of dice], foule cast away for hast.
1863   G. W. Whitman in Civil War Lett. 89,   I have a bran new tent and when I get it fixed up to suit me, it will be just gay.
1877   E. Peacock Gloss. Words Manley & Corringham, Lincs. (at cited word),   This raäin'll mak' tonups look gaay. Them's a gaay lot o' hogs o' yours.
1894   ‘M. Twain’ in Cent. Mag. Feb. 553   My business and your law practice ought to make a pretty gay team, Dave.
1904   J. C. Lincoln Cap'n Eri viii. 132   Ain't this gay? Look at them eggs; b'iled jest to a T.
1932   ‘L. G. Gibbon’ Sunset Song 20   Ellison had begun to think himself a gey man in Kinraddie.

a1375—1932(Hide quotations)


 c. ironically. Sc. in later use.

1581   J. Bell tr. W. Haddon & J. Foxe Against Jerome Osorius 11 b,   O gay payre of Byshops, which are so intangled in two examples onely, that [etc.].
1582   G. Martin Discov. Corruptions Holy Script. vii. 120   If these later Rabbines be the Hebreues that Beza meaneth, and which these gay English translatours follow.
1871   W. Alexander Johnny Gibb iii,   Aye, aye! Ye're a gey boy comin' to yer bed at three o'clock i' the mornin'.
1929   E. Linklater White-Maa's Saga 122   His grandfather was a gey man for the women.
1990   S. Robertson Fish-Hooses (1992) 48   Salty, the gey lad that he wis, told Peggy that he wis gan tae mairry her before Michaelmas.

1581—1990(Hide quotations)


 a. Of persons, their attributes, actions, etc.: light-hearted, carefree; manifesting, characterized by, or disposed to joy and mirth; exuberantly cheerful, merry; sportive. Also in extended use.

c1400  (▸?c1380)    Cleanness (1920) 830 (MED),   Þenne seten þay at þe soper..Þe gestes gay and ful glad, of glam debonere.
a1425  (▸c1385)    Chaucer Troilus & Criseyde (1987) ii. l. 922   A lay Of love..made hire herte fressh and gay.
a1450   York Plays 265   Boy, be not agaste if we seme gaye.
c1530   A. Barclay Egloges iii. sig. Nij,   Makynge the tapster, comyth gay & feat.
1706   G. Stanhope Paraphr. Epist. & Gospels III. 367   That gay insulting Man was particularly careful to distinguish himself from his poor dejected Companion.
1744   J. Thomson Autumn in Seasons (new ed.) 162   Quick, As is the Wit it gives, the gay Champaign.
1785   W. Cowper Task i. 493   Whom call we gay? The lark is gay.
1812   J. Wilson Isle of Palms i. 58   Smiles wander o'er thy placid face As if thy dreams were gay.
1814   Wordsworth Excursion iii. 118   The choir Of gay companions.
1843   E. Bulwer-Lytton Last of Barons I. i. i. 6   Edward..[was] the handsomest, the gayest, and the bravest prince in Christendom.
1849   T. B. Macaulay Hist. Eng. I. iv. 431   He made an effort to converse with them in his usual gay style.
1882   Cent. Mag. Feb. 590/1   The Canadians began to play and sing those gay, gay airs of old France.
1913   Sat. Evening Post 22 Feb. 14/2   All of a sudden I felt chipper and gay. I no longer gave a hoot for any one.
1938   R. K. Narayan Dark Room iv. 32   He expressed his gay mood by tying a preposterous turban round his head.
1972   Biogr. Mem. Fellows Royal Soc. 18 550   The conversation on such occasions was always gay, but students often found themselves picking up useful information about the wider scientific world.
2003   Village Voice (N.Y.) 22 Oct. 52/4   ‘There's no prizes for being happy and gay in a noir movie—that's failure,’ [Jane] Campion says with a shake of the head.

c1400—2003(Hide quotations)


 b. Of a horse: lively, prancing. rare.

1590   Spenser Faerie Queene ii. i. sig. N6,   The gentlest knight, that euer on greene gras Gay steed with spurs did pricke, the good Sir Mortdant was.
1642   J. Row Red-shankes Serm. sig. A3v,   The poore Post man must first venture over upon his little Nag, to see whether it be deepe or no, and then the Laird comes mounted on his gay steed and he passes over.
1822   Times 6 Feb. 4/4 (advt.)    A bright bay horse..now too gay for single harness, which is the true reason of his being to be sold.
1827   B. Disraeli Vivian Grey IV. vi. ii. 65   As spruce a cavalier as ever pricked gay steed on the pliant grass.
1891   W. Cory Ionica (rev. ed.) 160   So speed, gay steed, that I may see Dear Euphrasie, dear Eulalie.
1929   D. H. Lawrence Pansies 36   Horse, gay horses, swirling round and plaiting in a long line, their heads laid over each other's necks.

1590—1929(Hide quotations)


 c. the gay science : the art of poetry; (also in extended use) poetical or literary criticism. Now rare.

1693   T. Rymer Short View Trag. sig. Fv,   This King, Richard Ceur de lion, and his Brother Jeffrey had formerly liv'd much..in and about Provence, so came to take delight in their Language, their Poetry (then call'd the Gay Science) and their Poets.
1715   S. Lewis tr. P.-D. Huet Hist. Romances 110   'Tis certain that the Arabians were extremely addicted..to the Gay Science, I mean, Poesy, Fable, and Fiction.
1813   W. Taylor in Monthly Rev. 70 455   So little of an heroic or tragic cast had their effusions, that they termed poetry the gay science.
1855   H. H. Milman Hist. Lat. Christianity IV. ix. xiii. 313   Not forbidding himself those amorous indulgences which were the reward of chivalrous valour, and of the ‘gay science’.
1866   E. S. Dallas (title)    The gay science.
1920   O. Elton Survey Eng. Lit. III. x. 253   The ‘gay science’ is the science of criticism, the term being transferred from its original, Provencal sense of the craft of poetry.
1997   19th Cent. Lit. 52 336   The poet's..punning use of ‘gay’, which juxtaposes its suggestions of poetry as the gay science with its more usual meaning of joyful or perhaps even wanton.

1693—1997(Hide quotations)


 d. With implied sense of depreciation: offhand, airy. Now rare.

1703   S. F. Egerton Poems Several Occasions 55   In distant Shades contending Months I past, Thought I could see the Youth at my return, With gay Indifference and Unconcern.
1781   Johnson Pope in Pref. Wks. Eng. Poets VII. 49   Fenton..made him a gay offer of five pounds.
1811   J. Austen Sense & Sensibility III. v. 101   Elinor was left to improve her acquaintance with Robert, who, by the gay unconcern, the happy self-complacency of his manner..was confirming her most unfavourable opinion of his head and heart.
1866   B. Taylor Story of Kennett xi. 114   Little by little, a serious liking for her friend was sending its roots down through the gay indifference of his surface mood.
1940   T. Wolfe & E. C. Aswell You can't go Home Again i. i. 9   The gay insouciance of her unmannered settings.

1703—1940(Hide quotations)


 e. (with) gay abandon : (in) a carefree or expansive manner; (with) lack of consideration for the consequences of an action.

1842   New World 18 June 393/3   The combination of refined enjoyment, and gay abandon, which throws such a charm over the audience.
1910   P. MacKaye Garland to Sylvia ii. i. 72   At the end, Sylvia with her arm about Hikrion dances out, right, with graceful, gay abandon, followed by the others.
1925   H. W. Brecht in B. C. Williams O. Henry Prize Stories of 1925 (1926) 143   Very vivid in his mind still was the gay abandon of those afternoons.
1943   S. A. Brown et al. Negro Caravan iii. 281   The gay abandon of cabarets, the weary blues of a wandering piano plunker.
1977   Arab Times 14 Dec. 10/3   Jumpers threw themselves at the bar with gay abandon without the slightest modicum of lift at take-off.
1998   Artist Mar. 45/2   It can do neither your painting style nor yourself any harm to swing a paintbrush with gay abandon—just watch out for the wallpaper!
2003   Daily Tel. 20 Feb. 22/2   She was dancing about with gay abandon, and smoking a spliff.

1842—2003(Hide quotations)


 f. Of a dog's tail: carried high or erect. Also of the manner in which a tail is carried. Cf. gaily adv. 1c.

1894   R. B. Lee Hist. & Descr. Mod. Dogs: Non-sporting Div. ix. 239   The tail..should be incapable of being raised above the level of the backbone, which is called a ‘gay’ carriage.
1927   W. H. Dowling in C. C. Sanderson Pedigree Dogs 334   Tail.—Should be carried proudly, curved or plumed in a tight curl over and close to the back (never gay as in a ‘Peke’).
1935   Times 20 May 20/6   It is supposed..that the tails of some fox terriers are operated upon to remedy the grave defect of too gay a carriage.
1952   C. L. B. Hubbard Pembrokeshire Corgi Handbk. 111   Gay tail, one which from root to tip is carried over the horizontal.
2002   J. Cunliffe Encycl. Dog Breeds (new ed.) 38/3   A gay tail is carried higher than the horizontal line of the back and is considered a fault in many, indicating that it is being carried much higher than it should be, usually while the dog is on the move.

1894—2002(Hide quotations)


a. Wanton, lewd, lascivious. Obs.

c1405  (▸c1390)    Chaucer Miller's Tale (Hengwrt) l. 3769   Som gay gerl..Hath broght yow thus vp on the viritoot.
a1425   Medulla Gram. (Stonyhurst) f. 26,   Laciuus, gay.
a1450   Castle Perseverance (1969) l. 1160   Þanne mayst þou..serdyn gay gerlys.

c1405—a1450(Hide quotations)


 b. Originally of persons and later also more widely: dedicated to social pleasures; dissolute, promiscuous; frivolous, hedonistic. Also (esp. in to go gay ): uninhibited; wild, crazy; flamboyant. Cf. Gay Nineties n. at Special uses 2a. Now rare.See also gay dog n. at Special uses 2a. gay Lothario: see Lothario n.

1597   J. Payne Royall Exchange 27   Sum gay professors (kepinge secret minions) do love there wyues..to avoyde shame.
1624   P. Massinger Bond-man v. iii. sig. L3,   Then I dare rise vp And tell this gay man to his teeth, I neuer Durst doubt her constancie.
1637   J. Shirley Lady of Pleasure v. K 1 b,   Lord. You'le not be angry, Madam. Cel. Nor rude, though gay men have a priviledge.
1700   T. Brown Amusem. Serious & Comical x. 130   Every Dunce of a Quack, is call'd a Physician..Every Gay thing, a Chevalier.
1703   N. Rowe Fair Penitent v. i,   Is this that Haughty, Gallant, Gay Lothario?
1754   Adventurer No. 124. ⁋7   The old gentleman, whose character I cannot better express than in the fashionable phrase which has been contrived to palliate false principles and dissolute manners, had been a gay man, and was well acquainted with the town.
1791   E. Burke Let. to Member National Assembly in Wks. (1823) VI. 36   The brilliant part of men of wit and pleasure, or gay, young, military sparks.
1798   J. Ferriar Illustr. Sterne ii. 40   The dissolute conduct of the gay circles in France is not of modern date.
1847   H. Rogers Ess. I. v. 214   For some years he lived a cheerful, and even gay, though never a dissipated life, in Paris.
1849   T. B. Macaulay Hist. Eng. II. vi. 103   The place was merely a gay suburb of the capital.
1851   H. Mayhew London Labour I. 382/2   The principal of the firm was what is termed ‘gay’. He was particularly fond of attending public entertainments. He sported a little as well, and delighted in horse-racing.
1879   National Police Gaz. 4 Jan. 6/1   Besides being very handsome, there are reasons to fear that Mr. Charles Victor Fremy was sometimes very, very gay.
1891   E. Peacock Narcissa Brendon I. 302   This elder Narcissa had led a gay and wild life while beauty lasted.
1897   J. Hutchinson Archives Surg. VIII. 224   My patient was a married man, who admitted having been very gay in early life.
1912   C. Mackenzie Carnival xi. 128   They stayed another night [at the public house]... Jenny..had a flaming quarrel with her mother, who accused her of ‘going gay’.
1932   Appleton (Wisconsin) Post-Crescent 17 Aug. 9/4   Often the beginning of a married man's sidesteppings are coincident with his starting down the financial toboggan... Think of the number of men you know who began to lose out as soon as they began to go gay.
1939   H. Walpole Sea Tower iv. 54   She understood that there had been ‘ladies’. Her father had in fact a..reputation as ‘gay’.
1961   Blackwood's Mag. 290 255/1   Charles was..at home when Mrs. M'Gumph went gay.

1597—1961(Hide quotations)


 c. Freq. euphem. Esp. of a woman: living by prostitution. Of a place: serving as a brothel. Now rare.

?1795   R. King New Cheats of London Exposed 17   Those bullies who live upon whores of fashion, affect the dress and airs of men of rank and fortune, and by strutting occasionally by the side of a gay lady, add a consequence to her and themselves, and induce the ignorant cully to think that miss confers her favours on gentlemen alone.
1799   M. Robinson False Friend II. xlix. 293   ‘That's not my business,’ replied the bailiff. ‘She keeps a gay house at the west end of town. I dare say Miss can inform you for what purpose.’
1806   J. Davis Post-Captain xxviii. 194   As our heroes passed along the Strand, they were accosted by a hundred gay ladies, who asked them if they were good-natured... ‘Devil take me!..there is not a girl in the Strand that I would touch with my gloves on.’
1825   C. M. Westmacott Eng. Spy II. 22   Two sisters—both gay.
1857   J. E. Ritchie Night Side of London 40   The gay women, as they are termed, are worse off than American slaves.
1868   Sunday Times 19 July 5/1   As soon as ever a woman has ostensibly lost her reputation, we, with a grim inappositeness, call her ‘gay’.
1879   National Police Gaz. 4 Jan. 3/1   She prospered in the gay resort she opened, and..it was the rendezvous for military men, merchants and politicians.
1885   Hull & Linc. Times 26 Dec. 8/4   She was leading a gay life.
1889   J. Saul Statement: Cleveland Street Case (P.R.O. DPP 1/95/4) 38,   I am still a professional ‘Maryanne’. I have lost my character and cannot get on otherwise. I occasionally do odd jobs for different gay people.
1890   Star 16 Jan. (ed. 5) 2/7,   I worked hard at cleaning the houses of the gay people; the gay ladies on the beat.
1927   S. Lewis Elmer Gantry xxvii. 358   It was thirty days before any of the gay ladies were really back at work.
1967   G. Greene Root of all Evil in Coll. Stories (1972) 143   He now reported..that members of the secret society dressed themselves as women and in that guise frequented the gay houses of the town.

?1795—1967(Hide quotations)


 d. orig. U.S. slang.  (a) Of a person: homosexual;  (b) (of a place, milieu, way of life, etc.) of or relating to homosexuals.Although more frequently used of male homosexuals, this sense can either include or exclude lesbians: see, for example, quots. 1962   and 1993.
A number of quotations have been suggested as early attestations of this sense (see a sample below). It is likely that, although there may be innuendo in some cases, these have been interpreted anachronistically in the light either of the context (for example the disguise as a homosexual of the protagonist of quot. 19411), or of knowledge about an author's sexuality.

[1922   G. Stein Miss Furr & Miss Skeene in Geogr. & Plays 17   Helen Furr and Georgina Keene lived together then... They were together then and traveled to another place and stayed there and were gay there..not very gay there, just gay there. They were both gay there.
1929   N. Coward (We all wore) Green Carnation in B. Day N. Coward: Compl. Lyrics (1998) 114/3   Art is our inspiration, And as we are the reason for the ‘Nineties’ being gay, We all wear a green carnation.
1933   Baltimore Afro-American 21 Oct. 17   The products engendered by union of these decadents of changing sexes is generally an unenviable type of degeneracy... Sissies, fairies, pansies gay, The woods are full of them today.
1938   D. Nichols & H. Wilde Bringing up Baby (film script, final revision) 35   David..comes on..in negligee... Aunt: Why are you wearing these clothes?.. David: Because I just went gay, all of a sudden.
1939   N. Coward I went to Marvellous Party in B. Day N. Coward: Compl. Lyrics (1998) 195/2   Everyone's here and frightfully gay, Nobody cares what people say, Though the Riviera Seems really much queerer Than Rome at its height.
1941   ‘A. Boucher’ Case of Solid Key xiii. 235,   I had deliberately changed my manners, my mannerisms. I had ‘gone gay’, as we say in Hollywood.]
1941   G. Legman Lang. Homosexuality in G. W. Henry Sex Variants II. 1167   Gay, an adjective used almost exclusively by homosexuals to denote homosexuality, sexual attractiveness, promiscuity..or lack of restraint, in a person, place, or party. Often given the French spelling, gai or gaie by (or in burlesque of) cultured homosexuals of both sexes.
1941   T. Painter Homosexual (typescript) in G. Chauncey Gay N.Y. (1994) 18   Supposing one met a stranger on a train from Boston to New York and wanted to find out whether he was ‘wise’ or even homosexual. One might ask: ‘Are there any gay spots in Boston?’ And by a slight accent put on the word ‘gay’ the stranger, if wise, would understand that homosexual resorts were meant.
1947   Vice Versa in J. Katz Gay/Lesbian Almanac (1983) 624   Homosexuality is becoming less and less a ‘taboo’ subject, and..I venture to predict that there will be a time in the future when gay folk will be accepted as part of regular society.
1948   K. Williams Diary 22 Aug. (1993) 32   Met a charming young RAF fellow there obviously gay who played Debussy's Bergamasque with more understanding than I've heard for many a day.
1948   G. Vidal City & Pillar ix. 246   [In New York] the words ‘fairy’ and ‘pansy’ were considered to be in bad taste. It was fashionable to say a person was ‘gay’.
1955   P. Wildeblood Against Law i. 23   Most of the officers at the station had been ‘gay’..an American euphemism for homosexual.
1960   F. Raphael Limits of Love i. v. 70   ‘Great thing about gay people.’.. ‘Gay?’ Tessa said. ‘Bent, queer, you know. Homosexual.’
1962   ‘A. Bannon’ Beebo Brinker 146,   I know you don't want it from a man. I know you're gay, for chrissakes. That's one thing I can spot a mile off. I like gay girls, Beebo, in case you ain't noticed.
1976   Rocky Mountain Rev. Lang. & Lit. 30 237   He wasn't going gay, was he, out there with Oberon's troupe? The actor he shared a house with was homosexual.
1979   United States 1980/81 (Penguin Travel Guides) 428   It is a natural center of gay life,..and gays have been incorporated into the city's mainstream.
1988   R. Shilts Band played On iii. vii. 67   Already, a Manhattan gay newspaper..had published a story about the rumours of a new killer pneumonia striking gay men.
1993   Spin Apr. 48/2   Queercore youth have punctured the stilted air of the ‘gay establishment’ by exposing the clichés and stereotypes present within the gay and lesbian community.
2003   Village Voice (N.Y.) 6 Aug. 32/1   Episcopalians took a big step toward electing their first openly gay bishop.

1941—2003(Hide quotations)


5. Of words or speech: brilliant, attractive, charming. Formerly also of reasoning, etc.: specious, plausible. Obs.

c1425   Lydgate Troyyes Bk. (Augustus A.iv) Prol. 276 (MED),   In his dites, þat wer so fresche and gay With sugred wordes vnder hony soote, His galle is hidde lowe by the rote.
?a1475   Ludus Coventriae 355 (MED),   Ys ther ony renogat among vs..or any that peruertyth the pepil wyth gay eloquens alon.
1529   T. More Dialogue Heresyes iii, in Wks. 243/2   Those reasons semed..gay and glorious at the first sight.
1548   Hall's Vnion: Henry VI f. cxiij,   Thei with money, and gay promises, first corrupted a Miller.
1562   T. Cooper Answere Def. Truth f. 57v, in Apol. Priuate Masse   You will seeme with your gay gloses to glorifie the bloud of Christe.
1637   Milton Comus 27   Enjoy your deere Wit, and gay Rhetorick.
1638   W. Chillingworth Relig. Protestants i. vi. §5. 327,   I would fain know what gay probabilities you could devise to disswade him from this Resolution.
1711   Pope Ess. Crit. 24   Let not each gay Turn thy Rapture move.
1781   Johnson Pope in Pref. Wks. Eng. Poets VII. 41   All the gay varieties of diction were ready at his hand.

c1425—1781(Hide quotations)


 6. U.S. Amongst the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) or other (esp. nonconformist) religious groups: denoting a person who has ceased adhering to the plain and simple life or beliefs of the community; worldly. Esp. in gay Quaker, to go gay . Now chiefly hist.This sense perh. arises from the idea that showy clothes are a mark of worldliness; compare use of to go gay in 16th–17th cent. quots. at sense A. 1b.

1798   Aurora (Philadelphia) 6 Nov. 3/2   Her dress was pretty nearly that marked as ‘gay quakers’; she wore a white gown, white gloves, white..bonnet, green petticoat, and drab cloak.
1876   Ballou's Monthly Mag. July 90/1   Abner and Susan..were of the strictest sort of Friends, even in the Quaker City where all were strict, and ‘gay Quakers’ were as yet unknown.
1888   J. Gossler Turnpike-road 71   The attendance [at the Quaker meeting-house] was much larger fifty years ago... During the interval they have become ‘gay’, or ‘gone West’, or ‘over to the majority’.
1935   Amer. Speech 10 169/1   To go gay, meaning to become worldly in the sense of attending dances, card parties, or participating in other forbidden pleasures.
1969   Washington Post 9 Nov. g3/1   If an Amish young man enters the outside world—what they call ‘going gay’—his father is relieved of the obligation of providing a farm for that son.
1999   S. Bruce Choice & Relig. vi. 151   Early Quakers would not have read a novel or attended the theatre but the Gay Quakers (usually the offspring of wealthy merchants)..became more and more like the Church of England neighbours with whom they mixed as social equals.

1798—1999(Hide quotations)


 7. Brit. regional. In good health; well, convalescent.

1855   F. K. Robinson Gloss. Yorks. Words 69,   I am quite gay I thank you.
1877   E. Peacock Gloss. Words Manley & Corringham, Lincs. (at cited word),   I heard thoo was badly, but thoo looks gay.
1887   W. D. Parish & W. F. Shaw Dict. Kentish Dial. (at cited word),   I don't feel very gay this morning.
1893   G. E. Dartnell & E. H. Goddard Gloss. Words Wilts. (at cited word),   I do veel main gay agean 'smarnin', but I wur gashly bad aal laas' wick wi' th' rheumatiz.
1967   H. Orton & M. F. Wakelin Surv. Eng. Dial. IV. ii. 740   Q[uestion]. If you are in good health, you must be feeling very... [Berkshire] Gay.

1855—1967(Hide quotations)


 8. U.S. slang. Forward, impertinent, too free in conduct, over-familiar; reckless; usually in to get gay .

1889   Decatur (Illinois) Morning Rev. 26 Nov. 2/1   If those congressmen get gay, Harrison can take the large basket of loaves and fishes away from them.
1893   S. Crane in Truth 18 Mar. 5/2   When a feller asts a civil question yehs needn't git gay.
1896   W. C. Gore in Inlander Jan. 147   Get gay, to joke boisterously; to show off; to act ‘smart’.
1900   G. Ade Fables in Slang 109   The Copper, perceiving that he had come very near getting Gay with our First Families, Apologized for Cutting In.
1901   S. Merwin & H. K. Webster Calumet ‘K’ xii. 226   He got gay one day. I warned him once, and then I threw him off the distributing floor.
1911   J. F. Wilson Land Claimers vi. 80   And I wouldn't get gay round her.
1915   P. G. Wodehouse Something Fresh iv,   The flush on the little man's face deepened. ‘Are you trying to get gay with me?’ he demanded dangerously.
1917   U. Sinclair King Coal 11   Because you're too gay, kid. Didn't you know you had no business trying to sneak in here?
1940   L. Zinberg Walk hard—talk Loud xvii. 350   You shouldn't be so gay with your mitts.
1970   J. Bouton Ball Four 157   They give you a false sense of security. The result is that you get gay, throw it down the middle and get clobbered.
2002   H. Turtledove Through Darkness 22   Oraste pulled his stick off his belt and blazed the Kaunian, with deliberate malice, in the belly... ‘Anybody else want to get gay with us? We'll give you what he got.’

1889—2002(Hide quotations)


 9. slang (chiefly U.S.). Foolish, stupid, socially inappropriate or disapproved of; ‘lame’. derogatory (freq. considered offensive).

1978   G. Kimberly Skateboard 41   ‘It looks terrific on you.’ ‘It looks gay.’
1987   Creem Close-up Presents No. 1. 6   Your so-stupid-they're-funny captions are gay. Get into some [real] humor.
1999   T. Parker & M. Stone Cartman's Mom is Dirty Slut in South Park Scripts: Bk. 1 150 (stage direct.)    As the camera zooms in on their faces, that gay ‘Near/Far’ song from ‘Titanic’ plays.
2001   Washington Post 8 May c9   Today, they [sc. teenagers] often use gay as an adjective meaning ‘stupid’... A gay movie is a stupid movie or one that makes no sense or one with a lame plot or all of those things.
2002   Independent 3 Oct. 21/3   At last—the first official confirmation that the term ‘gay’ has now ousted ‘pants’ as the popular youth slang for ‘naff’.

1978—2002(Hide quotations)

B. adv.

 1. In a gay mood, joyously; = gaily adv. 1. Obs. rare.

?a1400  (▸a1338)    R. Mannyng Chron. (Petyt 511) ii. 332 (MED),   At þe Whitsonen day, þe kyng his fest suld hold at Westmynstre fulle gay.
1754   J. Shebbeare Matrimony (1766) II. 140   This paid her Debts, and put some considerable Sum of Money in her Pocket, with which she lived as gay as before.

?a1400—1754(Hide quotations)


 2. Brightly, showily; = gaily adv. 2. Obs.

c1400  (▸?c1380)    Cleanness (1920) l. 1568 (MED),   He schal be gered ful gaye in gounes of porpre.
1415   T. Hoccleve To Sir J. Oldcastle l. 414   Ymages..causen men honure The seint after whom maad is that figure, And nat worsshippe it how gay it be wroght.
?a1513   W. Dunbar Poems (1998) 238   Send in ȝour steid Ȝour ladeis, grathit vp gay.
1577   B. Googe tr. C. Heresbach Foure Bks. Husbandry i. f. 7,   Nor seelyng garnisht gaye with Imagrye, Nor ritche attyre we see.
1633   Bp. J. Hall Occas. Medit. (ed. 3) §xcviii,   Not acknowledging any friend but..the Nurse that dresses us gay.
1744   S. Fielding Adventures David Simple II. 161   He was dressed very gay.

c1400—1744(Hide quotations)

 C. n.

1. A noble or beautiful lady. Also (rarely) of a man: a ‘gallant’. Cf. sense A. 2. Obs. (arch. in later use).

c1400  (▸?c1390)    Sir Gawain & Green Knight (1940) l. 970 (MED),   Gawayn glyȝt on þat gay þat graciously loked.
c1475  (▸a1400)    Awntyrs Arthure (Taylor) (1842) 20 (MED),   Then gloppunt that gaye, Hit was no ferly, in faye.
c1540  (▸?a1400)    Destr. Troy 2679   Parys was purpost with pouer to wende Into Grese for a gay, all on grete wise.
1572   Taill of Rauf Coilȝear 786,   I will the ganandest gait to that gay glyde.
1899   E. C. Dowson Poems (1905) 145   We see once more fair dame and gallant gay, The glamour and the grace of yesterday.

c1400—1899(Hide quotations)


 a. Anything that looks bright or showy; an ornament; esp. one that is used to amuse a child. Cf. nosegay n.   Now rare (Brit. regional in later use).

c1475  (▸c1399)    Mum & Sothsegger (Cambr. Ll.4.14) (1936) ii. 94   But how the gayes han y-gon, God wotte the sothe, Amonge myȝtfull men alle these many ȝeris.
1519   W. Horman Vulgaria xiiii. f. 147,   This baby hath many gayes hangyng at his necke.
c1525   Bk. Mayd Emlyn sig. B.iiv,   This mannes name was harry He coude full clene cary He loued prety gayes.
1601   A. Dent Plaine Mans Path-way to Heauen 45   As if a theefe should be proud of his halter: a beggar of his cloutes: a childe of his gay.
1655   tr. C. Sorel Comical Hist. Francion ii. 36   He..took pleasure in such Gayes, on purpose to be the more noted by wearing Cloathes out of the Common Mode.
1880   M. A. Courtney W. Cornwall Words in M. A. Courtney & T. Q. Couch Gloss. Words Cornwall   Gays, children's toys: often, broken earthenware.

c1475—1880(Hide quotations)


b. fig. A childish amusement; a trifle, a whim. Obs.

1577   N. Breton Floorish vpon Fancie sig. Giiijv,   Though (perhaps) most commonly ech youth, Is geuen in deede, to follow euery gaye.
1605   J. Sylvester tr. G. de S. Du Bartas Deuine Weekes & Wks. i. iii. 109   O how I grieue (deere Earth) that giuen to gayes, Most of best wits contemne thee now-a-dayes.
1667   L. Stuckley Gospel-glasse (1670) xxiii. 232   Forraigners breed their Children..to work those gaies with their hands.
1694   F. Bragge Pract. Disc. Parables iii. 83   It highly concerns us..no longer childishly to doat upon empty gayes and trifles.

1577—1694(Hide quotations)


 3. Esp. in children's language: a picture in a book; (also occas.) a picture book. Now rare (Brit. regional in later use).

1630   tr. G. Botero Relations Famous Kingdomes World (rev. ed.) 598 (China)   Their Printing is but stamping, like our great Letters or Gaies cut in wood; for they cut many words in one peece, and then stampe it off in paper.
1646   W. Jenkyn Reformation's Remora 30   'Tis the gay in the lesson, that makes the childe delight to learn.
a1657   R. Loveday Lett. (1663) 149   Finding him still eager to put a gay before his book, I design'd him this which is now a cutting.
1698   L. Milbourne Notes Dryden's Virgil 4   Who, in the Inscription to his fine Gay in the Front of the Book, calls it very honestly Dryden's Virgil.
1839   C. Clark John Noakes (E.D.S. No. 76) 157   At a stall, soon Mary bote A hume-book full ov gays.
1869   E. FitzGerald Let. 2 Feb. (1980) III. 125   We have been..looking at ‘Gays’ (that is, Picture-books) which are a great Literature with these great children.
1880   S. Baring-Gould Mehalah II. viii. 148   ‘The master of Red Hall is turning over a new leaf to-day.’ ‘Maybe..but I doubt it will be a blank one.. . It won't be a gay for him.’
1906   Daily Chron. 25 Apr. 6/7   Suffolk has a curious word which shows appreciation of the pictured page. They call the pictures ‘the gays’. ‘Why do you want those books?’ asked a Sunday school teacher the other day at Bungay. ‘Please, miss, we want to look at the gays,’ was the reply.
1953   S. Grapes Boy John Lett. (1974) 62   We orl enjoy them luvely pictures yow hev in yar pearper. We allus hev time to look at them; Granfar still corl 'em gays.

1630—1953(Hide quotations)

 4. With the.

 a. With pl. concord. Light-hearted or carefree people as a class. Now rare.

1690   T. Betterton Prophetess v. 67   Let the Graces, and Pleasures repair, With the Youthful, the Gay, the Witty, and Fair.
1712   Pope To Young Lady in Misc. Poems 138   And the Gay mourn'd who never mourn'd before.
1750   Johnson Rambler No. 2. ⁋1   This practice is a commodious subject of raillery to the gay.
1769   W. Buchan Domest. Med. i. 80   That greatest of human blessings [sleep]..visits the happy, the chearful, and the gay.
1779   Mirror No. 64   The gay, whose minds, unbent from serious and important occupations, had leisure to sport themselves in the regions of wit and humour.
1807   G. Crabbe Parish Reg. i, in Poems 45   'Twould warn the Giddy and awake the Gay.
a1817   J. Austen Persuasion (1818) IV. viii. 155   She had feelings for the tender, spirits for the gay, attention for the scientific, and patience for the wearisome; and had never liked a concert better.
1821   W. M. Craig Lect. Drawing viii. 440   To the youthful and gay, I would recommend these studies most particularly.
1868   Times 19 Sept. 10/5 (advt.)    The ‘Percy Anecdotes’ are..universal favourites with the old and the young, the grave and the gay, the rich and the poor.
1923   Times 20 Aug. 11/6   Drink affects men in various ways, making the grave gay and the gay solemn.
1944   Times 17 Feb. 5/4   The grave would rather die than let the faintest watery ghost of a smile appear upon their features during the gay's turn.

1690—1944(Hide quotations)


 b. With sing. concord. Light-hearted matters; freq. contrasted with the grave. Now rare.

1790   Times 24 Mar. 2/3   The Third Grand Selection..is announced again for this evening at Covent Garden Theatre. The gay and the grave are most happily combined in it.
1847   Tait's Edinb. Mag. 14 69   Some pendulate perpetually between the grave and the gay.
1890   H. James Tragic Muse I. ix. 191   They walked round..discussing: mingling the grave with the gay and paradox with contemplation.
1971   Times 9 Sept. 11/4   At last night's Prom, however, I felt that the grave predominated unduly over the gay, and that The Fairy Queen emerged more sombre than I had thought it before.

1790—1971(Hide quotations)

 5. slang.

 a. Chiefly in pl. orig. U.S. A homosexual person. Cf. sense A. 4d.Although more frequently used of male homosexuals, like sense A. 4d   this sense can either include or exclude lesbians.

1953   S. Robinson in True Crime May 49   The city decided to crack down on the ‘gays’ and..padlocked a number of known homosexual hangouts.
1972   Pride of Lions (Columbia Univ.) Apr. 7/3   What about a program acceptable to gays, students and workers?
1975   Whig-Standard (Kingston, Ont.) 13 Aug. 43/5   The female gays in Ottawa are split into four main groups.
1985   Sunday Tel. 30 June 18/7   What about gays, one asks, and will there be facilities for them to relate significantly to each other?
1998   Gay Times Aug. 53/2   Mr Justice Lightman said he felt that, if the MoD's policy towards gays in the armed forces did not change, then the policy faced ‘an uncertain future’.
2003   Time Out N.Y. 4 Dec. 22/2   Many liberal synagogues explicitly welcome gays and lesbians.

1953—2003(Hide quotations)


 b. With the. With pl. concord. Homosexual people as a class.

1966   A. Firth Tall, Balding, Thirty-five xv. 194   Would he ever dare, even if he wanted to, join the shrill freemasonry of the London gay?
1968   Globe & Mail Mag. (Toronto) 13 Jan. 6/1   A coffee shop frequented by the gay.
1995   M. Bucholtz in K. Hall & M. Bucholtz Gender Articulated iii. xiv. 359   Passing..between the worlds of the insane and the sane, the deaf and the hearing, the blind and the seeing, the gay and the straight.

1966—1995(Hide quotations)


Special uses

 S1. Chiefly parasynthetic.

  gay-coloured   adj.

1626   tr. T. Boccalini New-found Politicke i. i. 7   Fann's, made, not of the feathers of Ostriges, of Peacocks, or of any other gay-coloured bird, but of herbs and flowers.
1777   H. Mackenzie Julia de Roubigné I. xxiv. 191   He pulled off his hat, which he had adorned with some gay coloured ribands in honour of the occasion.
1866   W. D. Howells Venetian Life xx. 342   Brilliant tapestries and other gay-coloured cloths.
1926   People's Home Jrnl. Feb. 35/2   Odd pieces of gay colored chiffon or crêpe de Chine may be cut in strips and used as bands around the fullness of the sleeve.
1983   Times 15 June 16/3   The blue-green leaves of Hosta sieboldiana make an attractive foil to..the gay coloured orange and yellow Mimulus malibu.

1626—1983(Hide quotations)


  gay-flowered adj.

1854   J. D. Hooker Himalayan Jrnls. I. 16   Gay-flowered..Barlerias, and such hothouse favourites.
1886   F. H. Burnett Little Ld. Fauntleroy (1887) vi. 114   Everything was bright and cheerful with gay-flowered chintz.
1958   Times 1 Feb. 8/6   Sweet scented jasmin and honeysuckle and gay flowered hibiscus shrubs.

1854—1958(Hide quotations)


  gay-hearted adj.

1753   E. Young Brothers iii. 30   He..Kind, and gay-hearted, came to visit me.
1853   J. G. Whittier Panorama (1856) 33   Gay-hearted Health.
1947   W. de la Mare Coll. Stories for Children 44   Fairies, sly, small, gay-hearted.
2000   Oregonian (Portland, Oregon) (Nexis) 1 Sept. 21   All of Dassin's characters live, breathe, bleed and seethe like you and me, from doom-faced Servais and gay-hearted Manuel to a frivolous hoochie-coochie dancer.

1753—2000(Hide quotations)


  gay-humoured   adj.

1668   Dryden Secret-love i. iii. 11   You were gay humour'd, and you now are pensive.
1709   R. Steele Tatler 16–18 June 2/1   One of 'em was a mercurial gay humour'd Man; the other a Man of a serious, but a great and gallant Spirit.
a1834   T. Pringle Poet. Wks. (1839) 29   The gay-humoured Captain Fox, With whom I roamed 'mid Koonap's woods and rocks.
1883   F. M. Peard Contradictions x,   It was a fresh, gay-humoured day.

1668—1883(Hide quotations)


  gay-looking adj.

1756   M. Calderwood Jrnl. (1884) iv. 109   Harlem is a very pretty gay-looking town.
1897   Daily News 21 Apr. 3/3   A gay looking gig now put out from Palermo.
1968   Times 23 Nov. 26/1   For people planning parties this might be the moment to consider which of those gay-looking bottles contains the wine which will suit them best.
2006   Sunday Tel. (Nexis) 22 Jan. vii. 51   The comic-book trilogy starring Wesley Snipes as half-man, half-bloodsucker, all humourless vampire-scourge in gay-looking black leather.

1756—2006(Hide quotations)


  gay-seeming adj.

1596   Spenser Hymne Heauenlie Beautie in Fowre Hymnes 45   This vile world, and these gay seeming things.
1638   F. Junius Painting of Ancients 328   It dazeleth our senses with the resplendent beames of gay-seeming things, not suffering them to see what is in the worke.
1887   H. D. Rawnsley Sonnets round Coast vii,   The changing pageant of the bannered skies Forbade him trust gay-seeming enterprise.
2001   Canberra (Australia) Times (Nexis) 19 Nov. (TV Guide) 10   Tonight he brings home and plays his harp, a notoriously gay-seeming instrument in homophobic Ohio.

1596—2001(Hide quotations)


  gay-themed adj.

1979   Los Angeles Times 21 Oct. (Calendar section) 30/4   He didn't want to talk about the gay-themed film ‘Cruising’.
2004   P. Biskind Down & Dirty Pictures ix. 293   Any gay-themed project would have a tough time.

1979—2004(Hide quotations)

 a. Chiefly in senses A. 3a   or A. 4b.

  gay blade   n. a dashing or lively man; a rake (rake n.7); (in later use also punningly) a homosexual man, esp. a dashing or rakish one; cf. blade n. 11b.

1750   J. Lockman tr. P. de Marivaux Pharsamond II. vii. 124   'Tis very pretty in you, (says a gay blade,) to measure other people's corn by your bushel.
1803   G. Colman Love laughs at Locksmiths i. i. 9   And now, my gay blade of an officer, if you choose to enter the bit with me, we'll have a trial of skill.
1928   Amer. Speech 3 259   ‘Jim Dandy’, ‘spark’, ‘gay boy’, and ‘gay blade’, etc., are now replaced by ‘lounge lizzard’, ‘giggolo’, ‘cake eater’, [etc.].
1960   W. Conton African xii. 175   One could sense at once how he got his reputation as a gay blade on the one hand, and a statesman of genius on the other.
1968   ‘A. D'Arcangelo’ Homosexual Handbk. 48   It seems to me incredible that so few of the gay blades one meets form permanent or relatively permanent attachments.
2001   J. Murdoc & D. Price Courting Justice xi. 304   The justice who had railed about using the..word ‘home’ in connection with a swinging gay blade like Hardwick apparently could, nevertheless, empathize with gay couples.

1750—2001(Hide quotations)


  gay cat   n. U.S. slang (now rare) a young or inexperienced tramp, esp. one who acts as a scout; a hobo who accepts occasional work.Some examples imply a relationship with an older tramp involving sexual favours, but this cannot be taken as evidence for sense A. 4d: see also etymological note.

1893   Cent. Mag. Nov. 106   The gay-cats are men who will work for ‘very good money’, and are usually in the West in the autumn to take advantage of the high wages.
1897   ‘J. Flynt’ in Forum Feb. 741   Nothing arouses his [sc. the hobo's] scorn more than the dilettante, or ‘gay-cat’, as he calls him.
1901   J. London Let. 6 Dec. (1966) 126   Wyckoff is a gay cat. That was his rating when he wandered over the States.
1905   Amer. Mag. 209/1   From this center a number of so-called ‘gay cats’, or ‘spies’ will visit a small village.
1914   Sat. Evening Post 4 Apr. 10/3,   I ain't no gay-cat that 'ud kick you after makin' friends.
1926   J. Black You can't Win vi. 74   He must have been an awful gay cat to get into the end of a carload of planed lumber. It's suicide.
1935   N. Ersine Underworld & Prison Slang 39   Geycat,..a homosexual boy.
1950   R. Chandler Let. 18 May (1966) 78   A gay-cat is a young punk who runs with an older tramp and there is always a connotation of homosexuality. Again, he could be a ‘look-out’ (outside man) or a ‘finder’ (finger or finger man), but that is a derived or occasional meaning and not exact.
1980   E. White in L. Michaels & C. B. Ricks State of Lang. 238   In American slang at the turn of the century, a ‘gay cat’ was a younger, less experienced man who attached himself to an older, more seasoned vagrant or hobo; implicit in the relationship between gay cat and hobo was a sexual liaison.

1893—1980(Hide quotations)


  gay deceiver   n. now rare  (a) a deceitful rake (rake n.7);  (b) (in pl.) slang = falsies n.; (also occas.) false eyelashes.

1710   C. Johnson Force of Friendship ii. 10   You have already fought this gay Deciever [sic], Your Arm Victorious, blush'd with his best Blood.
1803   G. Colman Love laughs at Locksmiths ii. i. 25   Says he, ‘I am a handsome man, but I'm a gay deceiver.’
1809   B. H. Malkin tr. A. R. Le Sage Adventures Gil Blas III. vii. i. 10,   I..posted myself on the high road, where the gay deceiver was sure to be intercepted.
1898   J. D. Brayshaw Slum Silhouettes 44   Ah! he's a gay decaver, is Billy, like all the min. Sure I wouldn't trust my ould gran'mother wid him.
1942   D. Powell Time to be Born (1943) x. 232   Her pink sweater..clung properly to the seductive curves of her Gay Deceivers.
1962   Guardian 12 Mar. 4/7   False bosoms..were known as ‘gay deceivers’.
1969   M. Pugh Last Place Left xvii. 121   ‘Your gay deceivers aren't straight,’ I said. ‘My eyelashes, you mean?’
1971   W. Reyburn Bust-up (1972) 67   In those days when what were known as ‘gay deceivers’ were made of rubber, women in general did not realise that the quality of falsies on the market in any given year was directly related to the weather in Malaya.

1710—1971(Hide quotations)


  gay dog   n. a man given to revelling or self-indulgence.

1847   Dickens Dombey & Son (1848) xxvi. 266   Well! we are gay dogs, there's no denying.
1900   G. Swift Somerley 54   Oh! that first kiss! how proud of it we are, what gay dogs we feel!
1910   S. Kaye-Smith Spell Land xix. 221   He felt rather a gay dog.
1952   H. E. Bates Love for Lydia (1956) ii. ii. 88   Then Alex kissed Lydia..in his gay-dog, slightly ironic, debonair fashion.
1992   Guardian 25 July (Weekend Suppl.) 9/4,   I utterly deny the description of me in the press as a gay dog [or] Lothario.

1847—1992(Hide quotations)


  Gay Gordons n. (with the)  (a) the Gordon Highlanders (see quot. 1925);  (b) an old-time dance performed in couples (originally to a tune called ‘The Gordon Highlanders’) and popular at ceilidhs and social dances.

1823   C. K. Sharpe Ballad Bk. 37   His name is Glenlogie, when he is from home, He is of the gay Gordons, his name it is John.
1925   E. Fraser & J. Gibbons Soldier & Sailor Words 185   Gay Gordons, The, The Gordon Highlanders. In particular the 2nd Battalion, the 92nd Highlanders.
1947   J. R. Gillespie Old Tyme Dancing 32 (heading)    The Gay Gordons.
1955   J. I. M. Stewart Guardians iii. iv. 238   The music of the Samba and the Gay Gordons.
1966   Crescendo Dec. 27/1   A musical chore to be dealt with grudgingly like the Veleta or the Gay Gordons.
1990   in J. Faley Up oor Close v. 90   And ye were all squashed in and dancing like the Gay Gordons, or the quick-step, fox-trot, waltzes. Just in a wee room, all right together.

1823—1990(Hide quotations)


  Gay Nineties n. (also with lower-case initials) orig. and chiefly U.S. the 1890s, often perceived as a period of optimism, prosperity, and extravagance; freq. with the; cf. naughty nineties n. at naughty adj. Special uses 2.

1925   R. V. Culter in Life 9 Apr. 7 (title of cartoon)    The Gay Nineties.
1930   O. M. Sayler Revolt in Arts i. 8   The skyscraper, that upstart coxcomb of the gay nineties, pushed onward and upward.
1961   E. C. Marston Origin & Devel. Northeastern Univ. i. 6   The Gay Nineties have perhaps been given a glamor they do not deserve yet the appeal of electric lights, gaming rooms, and saloons must have been strong to country boys of the time.
2000   Oxf. Amer. Mar.–Apr. 115/3   It had a real Gay Nineties, red plush, stripey kind of decor.

1925—2000(Hide quotations)

 b. (In sense A. 4d.)

  gay bar   n. a public house or bar frequented predominantly by homosexuals.

1947   K. Williams Diary 16 Jan. (1993) 9   Went round to the gay bar which wasn't in the least gay and saw K. and Co.
1976   M. Machlin Pipeline xxxviii. 412   There were no gay bars or hangouts, and very few gays dared walk the streets in the more extravagant, deviant-type-wardrobes.
2005   Independent 18 Jan. (Review section) 5/4   In gay bars the guys have a couple of drinks, but they're more interested in dancing and posing.

1947—2005(Hide quotations)


  gay boy   n. sometimes depreciative  (a) a hedonistic young man;  (b) a homosexual man.

1921   Hot Dog Nov. 23   A festive gayboy of our acquaintance,..having been newly introduced to a demure young thing from the Kentucky hills, invited her to supper.
1945   T. Williams Let. 15 Mar. in Lett. to D. Windham (1976) 167   [She] goes hog-wild in the presence of gay boys, flitting from one to another... She..fixed me up with a charming Captain in the air-force.
1951   E. Lambert Sleeping-house Party vii. 74   In a way it was an odd threesome. It occurred to me that Esther rather hung round our two gay boys.
1995   Face Sept. 60/1,   I always got called gay. ‘Oy, pouf! Gayboy!’
2000   J. Harvey Gimme Gimme Gimme 65   Favourite Perfume. A special fragrance called Poppers, that all those gayboys use in the clubs. They put it up their noses. I dab it behind me ears.

1921—2000(Hide quotations)


  Gay Day   n. (also with lower-case initials) orig. U.S. any of various all-day public events intended to promote and raise awareness of gay and lesbian issues.

1971   Sunday Post-Crescent (Appleton, Wisconsin) 29 Aug. 1/5   Gay Day brought Trafalgar its oddest hour.
1980   Family Relations 29 176/1   One father and his 10-year-old daughter march annually in San Francisco's Gay-Day Parade with the gay father contingent.
2005   Chicago Tribune (Midwest ed.) 13 Nov. v. 14/4   Evengelicals waged a boycott of Walt Disney Co. for its benefits to same-sex partners, as well as gay days at its theme parks.

1971—2005(Hide quotations)


  gay gene   n. colloq. a sequence or sequences of DNA supposedly predisposing a person towards a homosexual orientation.

1986   Los Angeles Times 13 July (Mag. section) 21/1   An extreme sociobiologist would argue that there is a gay gene.
1993   New Scientist 24 July 3/2   While the ‘discovery’ of the gay gene may generally have been welcomed by gay rights groups, it could..also help to produce tests to see whether a fetus was carrying that gene, or a search for ways to alter its function.
2000   H. Hammond Lesbian Art in Amer. i. 99   Despite reports of a gay gene, most of us believe that to be queer is not simply a biological condition but a combination of biology, socially conditioned factors, and conscious choice, as is heterosexuality.

1986—2000(Hide quotations)


  gay ghetto   n. colloq. an urban area with a significant homosexual population and a high concentration of businesses catering primarily to this community (sometimes characterized negatively as isolationist or segregated); cf. gay village n.

1970   N.Y. Times 31 Aug. 28   Police harassment of homosexuals had been intensified within the last three weeks in the ‘gay ghettos’ of Manhattan.
1994   P. Hindle Gay Communities in S. Whittle Margins of City i. 13   One possible end product of the creation of gay space is a segregated ‘gay ghetto’, similar to ethnic and racial ghettos, but in this case defined by a combination of sexuality, lifestyle and culture.
2004   Gay Times Feb. 117/1   The last thing I want from a holiday is to swap the fast-lane, 24/7 concrete-jungle of queer London for the gay ghetto of another large city.

1970—2004(Hide quotations)


  gay icon   n. a public figure said to be particularly admired by homosexuals, esp. for showing spirit, fortitude, flamboyance, or a disregard of convention.

1984   M. Bronksi Culture Clash ii. 104   Judy Garland was the quintessential pre-Stonewall gay icon. She made a legend out of her pain and oppression, and although she always managed to come back, she never fought back.
1991   Pink Paper 30 Mar. 11/1   Gay icons may come and go, but few can command such an adulatory following and even fewer repay the devotion with such dedication as diva Eartha Kitt.
2005   Financial Times (Nexis) 17 Dec. 12   David Beckham is so comfortable as a gay icon that he has posed as a pin-up for the gay magazine Attitude.

1984—2005(Hide quotations)


  gay lib n.  [see lib n.4] orig. U.S. = gay liberation n.

1970   Los Angeles Free Press 6 Feb. 17 (heading)    Gay Lib Front meets.
1970   Los Angeles Free Press 20 Feb. 18/3   The Pope hopes that all Gay organizations—Old line, Gay lib, motorcycle, and social—will join in the demonstration.
1974   A. Ginsberg Interview in Spontaneous Mind (2001) 309   The gay lib movement will have to come to terms sooner or later with the limitations of sex.
1986   Guardian Weekly 26 Jan. 12/4   The bars—since gay lib, their fronts are of transparent glass—do not have invitingly dim-lit backrooms.
1999   Callaloo 22 135   The things I..quickly started reading everything I could about, in porno magazines and gay lib books..certainly had nothing to do with..black people or poverty.

1970—1999(Hide quotations)


  gay liberation n. (also with capital initials) orig. U.S. the liberation of homosexuals from social stigma and discrimination.

1969   Berkley Barb (San Francisco) 10 Oct. 12/2   A magazine devoted to gay liberation is shortly to be published.
1985   Listener 7 Feb. 28/3   To depict life from the standpoint of a male prostitute..is to make a statement, if not to thump the tub for gay liberation.
2002   R. Goldstein Attack Queers ii. 34   The cadres of gay liberation never imagined that straight society would be so quick to embrace them.

1969—2002(Hide quotations)


  Gay Liberation Front   n. orig. U.S. a movement promoting gay liberation.

1969   Village Voice (N.Y.) 18 Sept. 2/1 (advt.)    The Gay Liberation Front sends love to all gay men and women in the homosexual community.
1974   A. Ginsberg Interview in Spontaneous Mind (2001) 335   Look out straights, here comes the Gay Liberation Front, springing up like warts all over the bland face of Amerika.
1993   New Republic 20 Dec. 26/1   The Gay Liberation Front clung to the highly un-Bolshevik anti-elitism of the earlier New Left.

1969—1993(Hide quotations)


  gay liberationist   n. (also with capital initials) orig. U.S. an activist in the Gay Liberation Front; an advocate of gay liberation.

1970   Times Recorder (Zanesville, Ohio) 13 Nov. 12/2,   I plan to join the Gay Liberationists as a sympathizer.
2003   Daily Tel. (Nexis) 11 July 26   Evangelicals are not the only ones who object to the forcing of a gay liberationist agenda on the Church.

1970—2003(Hide quotations)


  gay marriage   n. a relationship or bond between partners of the same sex which is likened to that between a married man and woman; (in later use chiefly) a formal marriage bond contracted between two people of the same sex, often conferring legal rights; (also) the action of entering into such a relationship; the condition of marriage between partners of the same sex.

1971   W. D. Oberholtzer Is Gay Good? Introd. 41   Also, current research has not comprehensively tapped the world of the gay marriage, nor has it determined whether the male homosexual goes through stages, e.g., promiscuous while young but nonpromiscuous when older or when married.
1977   Washington Post (Nexis) 23 May c1   Gays seized the phrase as a legalization of gay marriages—and Dixon's voters, many of them representing church groups, were outraged.
1990   Daily Tel. 19 Apr. 12/8   Gay marriages for 648 Danes... Under the law, homosexual couples enjoy almost all the rights of a heterosexual marriage, except adoption.
2001   Times 27 Feb. i. 1/5   One plan under consideration is to give away the first 100 ‘gay marriage’ licences free to publicise the scheme which brings London into line with San Francisco, Amsterdam and Paris.

1971—2001(Hide quotations)


  gay panic   n. anxiety or panic as a reaction to (one's own or more usually another's) homosexuality, esp. that supposedly provoked in a heterosexual man by another man's homosexual advances, and sometimes claimed as the cause of violent conduct (freq. in N. Amer. legal contexts, esp. attrib. in gay panic defence); cf. homosexual panic n. at homosexual adj. and n. Additions.

1986   Times 14 June 3/1 (heading)    Gay panic led man to kill.
1989   Harvard Law Rev. 102 1543   Some courts, however, have refused to acquit defendants on the basis of the gay panic defense.
1994   Washington Post 23 Dec. a3   A Washington attorney with Gay and Lesbian Americans, says he has heard the ‘gay panic defense’ before and brands it ‘nonsense’.
1999   Independent on Sunday 7 Nov. 5/2   In an ongoing murder trial, lawyers attempted to use ‘gay panic’ as a defence, stating that the defendant was provoked to violence by homosexual advances.
2001   N.Y. Times 24 June i. 15/5   They say he has a history of supporting anti-gay legislation, including a ‘gay panic’ measure that would have permitted someone accused of attacking a gay person to argue that the victim provoked the attack with ‘lewd and lascivious’ behavior.

1986—2001(Hide quotations)


  gay plague   n. offensive (orig. U.S.) Aids (so called because it was first identified amongst homosexual men).

1982   New York 31 May 52 (heading)    The gay plague.
1985   Sun 7 Dec. 3/1   Christian, 32, has turned down an out-of-court offer of £7000 because, he says, Hudson knowingly exposed him to the ‘Gay Plague’.
1988   M. Bishop Unicorn Mountain xi. 100,   I think he must believe I'm highly infectious—the Gay Plague's answer to Typhoid Mary.
2005   Independent 1 Feb. 31/3   In 1987..there was still a widely held belief that the ‘gay plague’ was a punishment for indiscriminate immorality.

1982—2005(Hide quotations)


  gay power   n. (also with capital initials) orig. U.S. the exertion of social, cultural, or economic power by homosexuals; the advocacy of this (freq. used as a slogan by gay civil rights activists).

1969   N.Y. Times 30 June 22/1   Graffiti on the boarded-up windows of the inn included: ‘Support gay power’ and ‘Legalize gay bars’.
2004   Guardian (Nexis) 4 Nov. 13   Gay power will shake the foundations of one of Spain's most reactionary institutions today when an officer from the civil guard police force formally asks to share married quarters with his male partner.

1969—2004(Hide quotations)


  gay pride n. a sense of self-esteem engendered by a person's (public) acknowledgement of his or her homosexuality; solidarity among homosexual men and women, esp. as expressed publicly; (freq. attrib. and with capital initials) any of various public events intended to promote this feeling.

1970   Washington Post 29 June a20/2   It [sc. the march] was the climax of what its organizers called ‘Gay Pride Week’.
1972   Pride of Lions (Columbia Univ.) Apr. 2/2   What is important is that you come out, have gay pride and leave the dance with a sense of Gay power.
1987   J. Rule Memory Board vi. 96   She toyed with the idea of joining one of the early gay pride marches.
1993   R. Shilts Conduct Unbecoming i. ix. 95   Hence, gay pride became a movement watchword. ‘Coming out’, or acknowledging one's homosexuality—either privately to oneself or publicly—became like a born-again experience to the new gay activists.
2000   M. Albo Hornito 27   Last weekend was Gay Pride, and I spent it on Ecstasy, howling, walking around in the gold boot-cut jeans I got at the Salvation Army for three dollars.

1970—2000(Hide quotations)

1974   Daily Rev. (Hayward, Calif.) 26 Sept. 10/2 (heading)    Marcus Welby episode on gay rape cancelled.
2004   Evening Standard (Nexis) 17 Nov. 7   The investigation looked at..claims of a cover-up over an alleged gay rape.

1974—2004(Hide quotations)


  gay rights n. orig. U.S. the civil rights of homosexual people, esp. in terms of equality of freedom, privilege, and opportunity with heterosexuals.

1972   Pride of Lions (Columbia Univ.) Apr. 2/3   A point by point Gay rights platform for the United States in 1972 was drawn up.
2004   Times Lit. Suppl. 4 June 3/2   He was outspoken in his advocacy of gay rights, of peace and religious tolerance.

1972—2004(Hide quotations)


  gay scene   n. the cultural and social environment associated with homosexuals; spec. gay and lesbian bars, clubs, etc., considered collectively as a social scene; cf. scene n. 7f.

1969   Los Angeles Times 30 Mar. (Calendar section) 32/1   The plays contribute to a saner public attitude to the so-called gay scene by divesting it of its furtive glamor.
1971   J. von Rohr in W. D. Oberholtzer Is Gay Good? i. 41   Nonetheless, ‘straight’ sex is a noticeable part of the male gay scene.
1988   Observer 2 Oct. v. 3/4   Born from the New York black and Puerto Rican gay scene, Vogueing nights are friendly and strangely innocent affairs.
2005   Gay Times Dec. 61/1   He was also bored by the Muscle Marys' and disco bunnies' monopoly of the gay scene.

1969—2005(Hide quotations)


  gay sex   n. sexual activity between people of the same sex.

1967   Barnard (N.Y.) Bull. 29 Nov. 4/1   Jason tells about taking a box of poppers to an orgy at a Turkish bath,..talks about gay sex.
2004   Gay Times Feb. 91/2   Official advice now suggests ordinary-strength condoms are just as safe as the thicker varieties traditionally recommended for gay sex.

1967—2004(Hide quotations)


  gay village   n. an urban area with a significant homosexual population and a high concentration of businesses catering primarily to this community.

1982   United Press Internat. Newswire (Nexis) 1 Sept.   Ogunquit, Maine (is) certainly a booming gay village.
1998   HotLine Autumn–Winter 73/5   Located in the popular Gay Village.., this busy pub attracts a cosmopolitan crowd and is open until 2am at weekends.
2005   Cape Etc. (Cape Town) Feb.–Mar. 86/2   Join us..in Cape Town's gay village. Lush is an exclusive night out for the girls..with some of the hottest lesbians around.

1982—2005(Hide quotations)




 C1. Compounds of the adverb (chiefly with present and past participles), as gay-beseen (see besee v. II.), gay-careering, gay-chirping, gay-dressed, gay-motleyed, gay-painted, gay-shifting, gay-smiling, gay-spent, gay-spotted, gay-throned, etc., adjs.

1549   T. Chaloner tr. Erasmus Praise of Folie sig. Oijv,   What saie you to Courtiers? these minion gaibeseen gentilmen.
1590   Spenser Faerie Queene ii. iii. sig. P3v,   She her gay painted plumes disorderid..Peepes forth, and soone renews her natiue pride.
1596   Spenser Second Pt. Faerie Queene vi. v. sig. Dd4v,   Deckt with greene boughes, and flowers gay beseene.
1642   H. More Ψυχωδια Platonica sig. G3v,   There be six Orders 'fore you do descend To this gay painted bow.
1690   W. Mountfort Successfull Straingers ii. ii. 15   The Gay Chirping Flutterers of the Air To their own mossy Architects repair.
1728   J. Thomson Spring 12   The downward Sun Looks out illustrious from amid the Flush Of broken Clouds, gay-shifting to his Beam.
1728   J. Thomson Winter (ed. 5) 36   Those busy, bustling Days..Those gay-spent, festive Nights.
1742   W. Collins Persian Ecl. iii. 16   Gay-motley'd Pinks and sweet Junquils she chose.
1744   J. Thomson Spring in Seasons (new ed.) 25   Nor broad Carnations; nor gay-spotted Pinks.
1747   G. Lyttelton To Memory of Lady ii. 2   Ye Lawns gay-smiling with eternal Green, Oft have You my Lucy seen!
1777   T. Warton Poems 36   The butterfly, gay-painted soon, Explores awhile the tepid noon.
1777   T. Warton Poems 76   But since, gay-thron'd in fiery chariot sheen, Summer has smote each daisy-dappled dale.
1784   Distressed Lady 9   In this manner she sat for about half an hour, when a very gay dressed lady came into the room, and said what is the matter with you madam?
1821   Xarifa in Lady Dacre Dramas & Occas. Poems v. ii. 209   The knights appellants, gay-careering, urge Their foaming coursers o'er the vacant space.
1824   T. Fenby Outl. Four Temperaments i, in Wild Roses 78   Thy gay-careering soul.
a1832   P. M. Freneau Poems (1929) 269   Gay spotted pinks their charming bloom withdrew, And Polyanthus quench'd its thousand dyes.
1844   Ld. Houghton Palm Leaves 132   The sparrow Gay-chirping by the door.
1848   A. H. Clough Bothie iv. 80   Seizing his gay-smiling Janet.
1850   H. Melville White-jacket xii.59   For sights, a gay-painted punch-bowl, or Dutch tankard—never mind about filling it—might be recommended.
1900   R. C. Dutt tr. Ramayana vii. vi. vi. 100   And five thousand gay-dressed damsels shall upon my Sita wait.

1549—1900(Hide quotations)

 C2. Objective compounds of the noun (in sense C. 5a).

  gay-baiting   n. orig. U.S. the incitement or exploitation of anti-homosexual sentiment, esp. for political gain; the harassment, abuse, or intentional provocation of homosexuals.

1973   Los Angeles Times 28 Apr. ii. 14/5   Representatives of the city's gay or homosexual community..accuse Arnegergh of ‘gay-baiting’ in his campaign... Arnegergh's ads ‘are inflammatory..and could set off a mass pogrom against us’.
1984   Signs 9 705   There is a lot of gay-baiting in my office, as well as anti-gay remarks and jokes. One gay man was already fired.
1997   Sunday Times 26 Oct. (News Review section) 6/2   They have lost the battle to outlaw abortion; and there is only so much gay-baiting even their grassroots will tolerate.

1973—1997(Hide quotations)


  gay-bash   v. orig. U.S. intr. to engage in gay-bashing; (also trans.) to subject (a homosexual) to an attack of this type.

1987   Oregonian (Portland, Oregon) (Northwest ed.) 26 Oct. b5/3   It is not our effort to ‘gay bash’ or affect the homosexual community in any way.
1992   Nation (N.Y.) 15 June 825/2   Let Dannemeyer gay-bash and yell about the fetus.
2002   N.Y. Times (National ed.) 6 Jan. ii. 33/4   The show's teenage character..was gay-bashed.

1987—2002(Hide quotations)


  gay-basher   n. orig. U.S. a person who engages in gay-bashing.

1979   Body Politic May 15/2 (heading)    Gay basher gets life.
1979   Boston Sunday Globe 9 Dec. 43/2   Gay bashers..usually feel they can operate with impunity ‘because the social climate out there says that homosexuality is a form of degeneracy’.
1981   Chicago Tribune 10 Oct. i. 11/5   They didn't die at the hands of gay bashers; their killers were gay, too.
1997   I. Rankin Black & Blue (1998) xxv. 358   They were fine and private places right up until the moment you met your first junkie, mugger, rapist or gay-basher.

1979—1997(Hide quotations)


  gay-bashing n. orig. U.S. the action or practice of specifically targeting homosexuals for physical or verbal attack; = queer-bashing n.

1978   Body Politic Sept. 21/1   Gay-bashing in New York's Central Park has been a fact of the cruising life for years.
1981   Los Angeles Times 6 Mar. i. 17/1   It has come to be known in Portland as ‘gay bashing’—vicious attacks directed..at homosexual men.
1993   R. Hughes Culture of Complaint i. 44   The same putrid stew of gay-bashing, thinly veiled racial prejudice, black Irish paranoia and authoritarian populism continued to bubble beneath the commonfellow surface.
2003   E. Hunt & N. Keller Rarotonga & Cook Islands (ed. 5) 40/1   There's no need for gays or lesbians to hide their sexuality, and there's no need to fear ‘gay bashing’.

1978—2003(Hide quotations)