gay, adj., adv., and n.
, ME–15 gai
, ME–16 gaie
, ME–16 gaye
, ME– gay
, 19– gey
); also Eng. regional
, 18– gah
); also Sc.
15 18– gey
, 18 gae
. See also (Show Less)
< Anglo-Norman gai
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 (c
1160), carefree, frivolous, fickle (c
1165), licentious, lascivious, lewd (c
1165), (of an animal's coat) speckled (c
1170), (of the human body) good looking (c
1220), (of a horse) spirited, frisky (c
1230), (of the colour green) bright, yellowish (in vert gai
1300), (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
, German jäh
), further etymology uncertain. Compare (probably also < Old High German gāhi
) Old Occitan gai
1126; also as noun, jai
1168)), and also ( < French or Occitan) Catalan gai
1272), 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
(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
apparently do not have an exact parallel in French, and may show a development within English. In
ultimately after Old Occitan, Occitan gai saber
, †gai sauber
(1343), gaya sciensa
1340); compare French gai savoir
(1845), gaie science
(1694). See also
The relationship between the various subsenses of sense
is difficult to establish from the available evidence. It seems most likely that the ‘homosexual’ sense
was primarily a development of sense , especially of its connotations of hedonism and lack of inhibition, while the ‘prostitution’ sense
was a separate development from sense . In quot. gay
is used by a male prostitute of people engaged in prostitution, but not specifically in the sense ‘homosexual’ (compare quot. , quoting the same source). Some examples of
imply a relationship with an older tramp involving sexual favours (compare , ), 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 ) and with frivolity and promiscuousness (sense ): see, for example, discussion by R. R. Butters ‘Cary Grant and the emergence of gay
“homosexual”’ in Dictionaries 19
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 ) 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
A. adj. 1.
b. Finely or showily dressed. Now rare.
▸a1387 J. Trevisa tr. R. Higden
(St. John's Cambr.)
Cleopatra made here gay.
Some ther weere Fayre of hemself, and some of hem were gay.
(BL Add. 31042)
Amadase and Edoyne..in golde and in grene were gaye in thaire tyme.
1509 A. Barclay
Wymen..sell theyr soules and bodyes to go gay.
He is the gayest in geir, that euer on ground glaid.
1611 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.
ii. i. 153
She that..Neuer lackt gold, and yet went neuer gay.
1766 C. Anstey xi. vi. 78
Who is that Bombazine Lady so gay, So profuse of her Beauties, in sable Array?
1801 J. Strutt i. i. 7
The king was desirous of knowing the name of this gay gentleman.
1812 J. Wilson iii. 600
Vaunt not, gay bird! thy gorgeous plume.
1859 Tennyson Enid in 15
The armourer..seeing one so gay in purple silks.
1924 3 Jan. 8
The quiet streets of Cape Town were enlivened by the marching of troupes of coloured youths, gay in coon costumes.
1932 No. 23. 3/1
Mr. Ernest Thesiger pleaded for colour and self-expression... ‘Let us go gay,’ he pleaded.
Noble; beautiful; excellent, fine.
b. More generally. regional in later use.† to have a gay mind : ‘to have a good mind’, to be very much inclined (obs. rare).
Swiþe sent he sondes to somoun..alle þe grete of grece and oþer gaie pepul.
I. 168 (MED),
Þis lorde had also a gay falcon & a swyfte.
ix. l. 178
A gud gay wynd out off the rycht art com.
?1529 R. Hyrde tr. J. L. Vives 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
ii. vii. 127
Becaus vertew wes honorit in this wise, it gaif occasioun to wemen to do gay vassalege.
1550 H. Latimer sig. Fiii,
The concord of brethren, & agreing of brethren is a gay thinge.
1551 T. Wilson 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 III. App. lxviii. 238
Yf you..had suche a gay mynde to restore the ruynes of the Chyrches.
1573 T. Tusser
The labor is little, the profit is gaye.
1577 W. Harrison
Ded. i. p. cix,
And thus with hope of good although no gaie successe.
It is a gay thing to come to dignity.
1611 J. Speed ix. xviii. 704/2
Here is a gay goodly cast [of dice], foule cast away for hast.
1863 G. W. Whitman in 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 (at cited word),
This raäin'll mak' tonups look gaay. Them's a gaay lot o' hogs o' yours.
1894 ‘M. Twain’ in Feb. 553
My business and your law practice ought to make a pretty gay team, Dave.
1904 J. C. Lincoln viii. 132
Ain't this gay? Look at them eggs; b'iled jest to a T.
1932 ‘L. G. Gibbon’ 20
Ellison had begun to think himself a gey man in Kinraddie.
c. ironically. Sc. in later use.
1581 J. Bell tr. W. Haddon & J. Foxe 11 b,
O gay payre of Byshops, which are so intangled in two examples onely, that [etc.].
1582 G. Martin vii. 120
If these later Rabbines be the Hebreues that Beza meaneth, and which these gay English translatours follow.
1871 W. Alexander iii,
Aye, aye! Ye're a gey boy comin' to yer bed at three o'clock i' the mornin'.
1929 E. Linklater 122
His grandfather was a gey man for the women.
1990 S. Robertson
Salty, the gey lad that he wis, told Peggy that he wis gan tae mairry her before Michaelmas.
b. Of a horse: lively, prancing. rare.
1590 Spenser 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 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 6 Feb. 4/4
A bright bay horse..now too gay for single harness, which is the true reason of his being to be sold.
1827 B. Disraeli IV. vi. ii. 65
As spruce a cavalier as ever pricked gay steed on the pliant grass.
1891 W. Cory
So speed, gay steed, that I may see Dear Euphrasie, dear Eulalie.
1929 D. H. Lawrence 36
Horse, gay horses, swirling round and plaiting in a long line, their heads laid over each other's necks.
c. the gay science : the art of poetry; (also in extended use) poetical or literary criticism. Now rare.
1693 T. Rymer 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 110
'Tis certain that the Arabians were extremely addicted..to the Gay Science, I mean, Poesy, Fable, and Fiction.
1813 W. Taylor in 70 455
So little of an heroic or tragic cast had their effusions, that they termed poetry the gay science.
1855 H. H. Milman 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
The gay science.
1920 O. Elton 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 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.
d. With implied sense of depreciation: offhand, airy. Now rare.
1703 S. F. Egerton 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 VII. 49
Fenton..made him a gay offer of five pounds.
1811 J. Austen 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 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. Aswell i. i. 9
The gay insouciance of her unmannered settings.
e. (with) gay abandon : (in) a carefree or expansive manner; (with) lack of consideration for the consequences of an action.
1842 18 June 393/3
The combination of refined enjoyment, and gay abandon, which throws such a charm over the audience.
1910 P. MacKaye 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
Very vivid in his mind still was the gay abandon of those afternoons.
1943 S. A. Brown et al. iii. 281
The gay abandon of cabarets, the weary blues of a wandering piano plunker.
1977 14 Dec. 10/3
Jumpers threw themselves at the bar with gay abandon without the slightest modicum of lift at take-off.
1998 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 20 Feb. 22/2
She was dancing about with gay abandon, and smoking a spliff.
f. Of a dog's tail: carried high or erect. Also of the manner in which a tail is carried. Cf. .
1894 R. B. Lee 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 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 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 111
Gay tail, one which from root to tip is carried over the horizontal.
2002 J. Cunliffe 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.
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. . Now rare.See also . gay Lothario: see
1597 J. Payne 27
Sum gay professors (kepinge secret minions) do love there wyues..to avoyde shame.
1624 P. Massinger 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 v. K 1 b,
Lord. You'le not be angry, Madam. Cel. Nor rude, though gay men have a priviledge.
1700 T. Brown x. 130
Every Dunce of a Quack, is call'd a Physician..Every Gay thing, a Chevalier.
1703 N. Rowe v. i,
Is this that Haughty, Gallant, Gay Lothario?
1754 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
The brilliant part of men of wit and pleasure, or gay, young, military sparks.
1798 J. Ferriar ii. 40
The dissolute conduct of the gay circles in France is not of modern date.
1847 H. Rogers I. v. 214
For some years he lived a cheerful, and even gay, though never a dissipated life, in Paris.
1849 T. B. Macaulay II. vi. 103
The place was merely a gay suburb of the capital.
1851 H. Mayhew 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 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 I. 302
This elder Narcissa had led a gay and wild life while beauty lasted.
1897 J. Hutchinson VIII. 224
My patient was a married man, who admitted having been very gay in early life.
1912 C. Mackenzie 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 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 iv. 54
She understood that there had been ‘ladies’. Her father had in fact a..reputation as ‘gay’.
c. Freq. euphem. Esp. of a woman: living by prostitution. Of a place: serving as a brothel. Now rare.
?1795 R. King 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 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 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 II. 22
Two sisters—both gay.
1857 J. E. Ritchie 40
The gay women, as they are termed, are worse off than American slaves.
1868 19 July 5/1
As soon as ever a woman has ostensibly lost her reputation, we, with a grim inappositeness, call her ‘gay’.
1879 4 Jan. 3/1
She prospered in the gay resort she opened, and..it was the rendezvous for military men, merchants and politicians.
1885 26 Dec. 8/4
She was leading a gay life.
1889 J. Saul (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 16 Jan.
I worked hard at cleaning the houses of the gay people; the gay ladies on the beat.
1927 S. Lewis 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
He now reported..that members of the secret society dressed themselves as women and in that guise frequented the gay houses of the town.
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. and .
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. ), or of knowledge about an author's sexuality.
[1922 G. Stein Miss Furr & Miss Skeene in 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
Art is our inspiration, And as we are the reason for the ‘Nineties’ being gay, We all wear a green carnation.
1933 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
(film script, final revision)
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
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’ 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 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
in G. Chauncey
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
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 22 Aug.
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 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 i. 23
Most of the officers at the station had been ‘gay’..an American euphemism for homosexual.
1960 F. Raphael i. v. 70
‘Great thing about gay people.’.. ‘Gay?’ Tessa said. ‘Bent, queer, you know. Homosexual.’
1962 ‘A. Bannon’ 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 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 (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 iii. vii. 67
Already, a Manhattan gay newspaper..had published a story about the rumours of a new killer pneumonia striking gay men.
1993 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 6 Aug. 32/1
Episcopalians took a big step toward electing their first openly gay bishop.
C. n. 2.
†b. fig. A childish amusement; a trifle, a whim. Obs.
1577 N. Breton 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 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
Forraigners breed their Children..to work those gaies with their hands.
1694 F. Bragge iii. 83
It highly concerns us..no longer childishly to doat upon empty gayes and trifles.
b. With sing. concord. Light-hearted matters; freq. contrasted with the grave. Now rare.
1790 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 14 69
Some pendulate perpetually between the grave and the gay.
1890 H. James I. ix. 191
They walked round..discussing: mingling the grave with the gay and paradox with contemplation.
1971 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.
b. With the. With pl. concord. Homosexual people as a class.
1966 A. Firth xv. 194
Would he ever dare, even if he wanted to, join the shrill freemasonry of the London gay?
1968 13 Jan. 6/1
A coffee shop frequented by the gay.
1995 M. Bucholtz in K. Hall & M. Bucholtz 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.
1854 J. D. Hooker I. 16
Gay-flowered..Barlerias, and such hothouse favourites.
1886 F. H. Burnett
Everything was bright and cheerful with gay-flowered chintz.
1958 1 Feb. 8/6
Sweet scented jasmin and honeysuckle and gay flowered hibiscus shrubs.
1753 E. Young iii. 30
He..Kind, and gay-hearted, came to visit me.
1853 J. G. Whittier
1947 W. de la Mare 44
Fairies, sly, small, gay-hearted.
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.
1668 Dryden i. iii. 11
You were gay humour'd, and you now are pensive.
1709 R. Steele 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
The gay-humoured Captain Fox, With whom I roamed 'mid Koonap's woods and rocks.
1883 F. M. Peard x,
It was a fresh, gay-humoured day.
1756 M. Calderwood
Harlem is a very pretty gay-looking town.
1897 21 Apr. 3/3
A gay looking gig now put out from Palermo.
1968 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.
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.
1596 Spenser Hymne Heauenlie Beautie in 45
This vile world, and these gay seeming things.
1638 F. Junius 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 vii,
The changing pageant of the bannered skies Forbade him trust gay-seeming enterprise.
19 Nov. (TV Guide) 10
Tonight he brings home and plays his harp, a notoriously gay-seeming instrument in homophobic Ohio.
1979 21 Oct. (Calendar section) 30/4
He didn't want to talk about the gay-themed film ‘Cruising’.
2004 P. Biskind ix. 293
Any gay-themed project would have a tough time.
Chiefly in senses
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 : see also etymological note.
1893 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 Feb. 741
Nothing arouses his [sc. the hobo's] scorn more than the dilettante, or ‘gay-cat’, as he calls him.
1901 J. London 6 Dec.
Wyckoff is a gay cat. That was his rating when he wandered over the States.
From this center a number of so-called ‘gay cats’, or ‘spies’ will visit a small village.
1914 4 Apr. 10/3,
I ain't no gay-cat that 'ud kick you after makin' friends.
1926 J. Black 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 39
Geycat,..a homosexual boy.
1950 R. Chandler 18 May
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 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.
gay deceiver n. now rare
(a) a deceitful rake ();
(b) (in pl.) slang = ; (also occas.) false eyelashes.
1710 C. Johnson ii. 10
You have already fought this gay Deciever [sic], Your Arm Victorious, blush'd with his best Blood.
1803 G. Colman 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 III. vii. i. 10,
I..posted myself on the high road, where the gay deceiver was sure to be intercepted.
1898 J. D. Brayshaw 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
Her pink sweater..clung properly to the seductive curves of her Gay Deceivers.
1962 12 Mar. 4/7
False bosoms..were known as ‘gay deceivers’.
1969 M. Pugh xvii. 121
‘Your gay deceivers aren't straight,’ I said. ‘My eyelashes, you mean?’
1971 W. Reyburn
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.
gay dog n. a man given to revelling or self-indulgence.
Well! we are gay dogs, there's no denying.
1900 G. Swift 54
Oh! that first kiss! how proud of it we are, what gay dogs we feel!
1910 S. Kaye-Smith xix. 221
He felt rather a gay dog.
1952 H. E. Bates
ii. ii. 88
Then Alex kissed Lydia..in his gay-dog, slightly ironic, debonair fashion.
1992 25 July (Weekend Suppl.) 9/4,
I utterly deny the description of me in the press as a gay dog [or] Lothario.
Gay Gordons n. (with the)
(a) the Gordon Highlanders (see quot. );
(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 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 185
Gay Gordons, The, The Gordon Highlanders. In particular the 2nd Battalion, the 92nd Highlanders.
1947 J. R. Gillespie 32
The Gay Gordons.
1955 J. I. M. Stewart iii. iv. 238
The music of the Samba and the Gay Gordons.
1966 Dec. 27/1
A musical chore to be dealt with grudgingly like the Veleta or the Gay Gordons.
1990 in J. Faley 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.
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. .
1925 R. V. Culter in 9 Apr. 7
(title of cartoon)
The Gay Nineties.
1930 O. M. Sayler i. 8
The skyscraper, that upstart coxcomb of the gay nineties, pushed onward and upward.
1961 E. C. Marston 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 Mar.–Apr. 115/3
It had a real Gay Nineties, red plush, stripey kind of decor.
(In sense .)
gay boy n. sometimes depreciative
(a) a hedonistic young man;
(b) a homosexual man.
1921 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
[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 vii. 74
In a way it was an odd threesome. It occurred to me that Esther rather hung round our two gay boys.
1995 Sept. 60/1,
I always got called gay. ‘Oy, pouf! Gayboy!’
2000 J. Harvey 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.
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 29 Aug. 1/5
Gay Day brought Trafalgar its oddest hour.
1980 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.
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.
gay gene n. colloq. a sequence or sequences of DNA supposedly predisposing a person towards a homosexual orientation.
1986 13 July (Mag. section) 21/1
An extreme sociobiologist would argue that there is a gay gene.
1993 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 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.
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.
1970 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 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 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.
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 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 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.
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.
gay lib n.
orig. U.S. =
1970 6 Feb. 17
Gay Lib Front meets.
1970 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
The gay lib movement will have to come to terms sooner or later with the limitations of sex.
1986 26 Jan. 12/4
The bars—since gay lib, their fronts are of transparent glass—do not have invitingly dim-lit backrooms.
1999 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.
gay liberation n.
(also with capital initials)
orig. U.S. the liberation of homosexuals from social stigma and discrimination.
1969 10 Oct. 12/2
A magazine devoted to gay liberation is shortly to be published.
1985 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 ii. 34
The cadres of gay liberation never imagined that straight society would be so quick to embrace them.
Gay Liberation Front n. orig. U.S. a movement promoting gay liberation.
1969 18 Sept. 2/1
The Gay Liberation Front sends love to all gay men and women in the homosexual community.
1974 A. Ginsberg Interview in
Look out straights, here comes the Gay Liberation Front, springing up like warts all over the bland face of Amerika.
1993 20 Dec. 26/1
The Gay Liberation Front clung to the highly un-Bolshevik anti-elitism of the earlier New Left.
gay liberationist n.
(also with capital initials)
orig. U.S. an activist in the Gay Liberation Front; an advocate of gay liberation.
1970 13 Nov. 12/2,
I plan to join the Gay Liberationists as a sympathizer.
11 July 26
Evangelicals are not the only ones who object to the forcing of a gay liberationist agenda on the Church.
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 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.
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 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 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.
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. .
1986 14 June 3/1
Gay panic led man to kill.
1989 102 1543
Some courts, however, have refused to acquit defendants on the basis of the gay panic defense.
1994 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 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 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.
gay plague n. offensive (orig. U.S.) Aids (so called because it was first identified amongst homosexual men).
1982 31 May 52
The gay plague.
1985 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 xi. 100,
I think he must believe I'm highly infectious—the Gay Plague's answer to Typhoid Mary.
2005 1 Feb. 31/3
In 1987..there was still a widely held belief that the ‘gay plague’ was a punishment for indiscriminate immorality.
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 30 June 22/1
Graffiti on the boarded-up windows of the inn included: ‘Support gay power’ and ‘Legalize gay bars’.
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.
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 29 June a20/2
It [sc. the march] was the climax of what its organizers called ‘Gay Pride Week’.
What is important is that you come out, have gay pride and leave the dance with a sense of Gay power.
1987 J. Rule vi. 96
She toyed with the idea of joining one of the early gay pride marches.
1993 R. Shilts 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 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.
1974 26 Sept. 10/2
Marcus Welby episode on gay rape cancelled.
17 Nov. 7
The investigation looked at..claims of a cover-up over an alleged gay rape.
gay rights n. orig. U.S. the civil rights of homosexual people, esp. in terms of equality of freedom, privilege, and opportunity with heterosexuals.
A point by point Gay rights platform for the United States in 1972 was drawn up.
2004 4 June 3/2
He was outspoken in his advocacy of gay rights, of peace and religious tolerance.
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. .
1969 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 i. 41
Nonetheless, ‘straight’ sex is a noticeable part of the male gay scene.
1988 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 Dec. 61/1
He was also bored by the Muscle Marys' and disco bunnies' monopoly of the gay scene.
gay sex n. sexual activity between people of the same sex.
1967 29 Nov. 4/1
Jason tells about taking a box of poppers to an orgy at a Turkish bath,..talks about gay sex.
2004 Feb. 91/2
Official advice now suggests ordinary-strength condoms are just as safe as the thicker varieties traditionally recommended for gay sex.
gay village n. an urban area with a significant homosexual population and a high concentration of businesses catering primarily to this community.
Ogunquit, Maine (is) certainly a booming gay village.
1998 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 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.
C1. Compounds of the adverb (chiefly with present and past participles), as gay-beseen (see ), 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 sig. Oijv,
What saie you to Courtiers? these minion gaibeseen gentilmen.
1590 Spenser ii. iii. sig. P3v,
She her gay painted plumes disorderid..Peepes forth, and soone renews her natiue pride.
1596 Spenser vi. v. sig. Dd4v,
Deckt with greene boughes, and flowers gay beseene.
1642 H. More sig. G3v,
There be six Orders 'fore you do descend To this gay painted bow.
1690 W. Mountfort ii. ii. 15
The Gay Chirping Flutterers of the Air To their own mossy Architects repair.
1728 J. Thomson 12
The downward Sun Looks out illustrious from amid the Flush Of broken Clouds, gay-shifting to his Beam.
1728 J. Thomson
Those busy, bustling Days..Those gay-spent, festive Nights.
1742 W. Collins iii. 16
Gay-motley'd Pinks and sweet Junquils she chose.
1744 J. Thomson Spring in
Nor broad Carnations; nor gay-spotted Pinks.
1747 G. Lyttelton ii. 2
Ye Lawns gay-smiling with eternal Green, Oft have You my Lucy seen!
1777 T. Warton 36
The butterfly, gay-painted soon, Explores awhile the tepid noon.
1777 T. Warton 76
But since, gay-thron'd in fiery chariot sheen, Summer has smote each daisy-dappled dale.
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 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 78
Thy gay-careering soul.
a1832 P. M. Freneau
Gay spotted pinks their charming bloom withdrew, And Polyanthus quench'd its thousand dyes.
1844 Ld. Houghton 132
The sparrow Gay-chirping by the door.
1848 A. H. Clough iv. 80
Seizing his gay-smiling Janet.
1850 H. Melville 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. vii. vi. vi. 100
And five thousand gay-dressed damsels shall upon my Sita wait.
Objective compounds of the noun (in sense ).
gay-bash v. orig. U.S. intr. to engage in gay-bashing; (also trans.) to subject (a homosexual) to an attack of this type.
26 Oct. b5/3
It is not our effort to ‘gay bash’ or affect the homosexual community in any way.
1992 15 June 825/2
Let Dannemeyer gay-bash and yell about the fetus.
6 Jan. ii. 33/4
The show's teenage character..was gay-bashed.
gay-basher n. orig. U.S. a person who engages in gay-bashing.
1979 May 15/2
Gay basher gets life.
1979 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 10 Oct. i. 11/5
They didn't die at the hands of gay bashers; their killers were gay, too.
1997 I. Rankin
They were fine and private places right up until the moment you met your first junkie, mugger, rapist or gay-basher.
gay-bashing n. orig. U.S. the action or practice of specifically targeting homosexuals for physical or verbal attack; =
1978 Sept. 21/1
Gay-bashing in New York's Central Park has been a fact of the cruising life for years.
1981 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 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
There's no need for gays or lesbians to hide their sexuality, and there's no need to fear ‘gay bashing’.
g - ay
|g||g||as in go, beg|
|eɪ||ay||as in bay|
g - ay
|g||g||as in go, beg|
|eɪ||ay||as in bay|
Back to top
This entry has been updated (OED Third Edition, March 2008).
In this entry:
In other dictionaries:
- My entries(1)
- gawl, v.1592
- gawlin, n.1703
- gawn, n.1565
- gawne, v.1563
- gawney, n.1842
- gawp, n.1825-80
- gawp, v.1728
- gawpus, n.1826
- gawsy, adj.1720
- gay, adj., adv., and n.?c1225
- gay, v.1581
- gayal, n.1790
- gayatri, n.1785
- gaybine, n.1842
- gayby boom, n.1990
- gaydar, n.1988
- gaydiang, n.1855
- gaydom, n.1922
- gayelle, n.1968
- gayfeather, n.1845
- gay-friendly, adj.1989
- gay horse, n.1483
- gayish, adj.1612
- gaylede, n.a1450
- gaylord, n.1976
- Gay-Lussac, n.1827
- gaylussite, n.1826
- gayness, n.c1400
- Gay-Pay-Oo, n.1923
- Gaysoc, n.1976
- gaysome, adj.1598
- gazabo, n.1896
- gazania, n.1813
- gaze, n.1542
- gaze, v.c1386
- gazebo, n.1752
- gazee, n.1853
- gazeful, adj.1595
- gaze-hound, n.1570
- gazeless, adj.a1819