AskDefine | Define gay

Dictionary Definition

gay adj
1 bright and pleasant; promoting a feeling of cheer; "a cheery hello"; "a gay sunny room"; "a sunny smile" [syn: cheery, sunny]
2 full of or showing high-spirited merriment; "when hearts were young and gay"; "a poet could not but be gay, in such a jocund company"- Wordsworth; "the jolly crowd at the reunion"; "jolly old Saint Nick"; "a jovial old gentleman"; "have a merry Christmas"; "peals of merry laughter"; "a mirthful laugh" [syn: jocund, jolly, jovial, merry, mirthful]
3 given to social pleasures often including dissipation; "led a gay Bohemian life"; "a gay old rogue with an eye for the ladies"
4 brightly colored and showy; "girls decked out in brave new dresses"; "brave banners flying"; "`braw' is a Scottish word"; "a dress a bit too gay for her years"; "birds with gay plumage" [syn: brave, braw]
5 offering fun and gaiety; "a gala ball after the inauguration"; "a festive (or festal) occasion"; "gay and exciting night life"; "a merry evening" [syn: gala(a), festal, festive, merry]
6 homosexual or arousing homosexual desires [syn: queer, homophile(a)] n : someone who practices homosexuality; having a sexual attraction to persons of the same sex [syn: homosexual, homo]

User Contributed Dictionary

see Gay



From gai, of uncertain origin. Possibly from gaudium ‘joy’. (Friedrich Christian Diez has suggested that it comes from . The sense of "homosexual" is said by some to have come from an Arabic word via French; it is also said to come from the word's older sense of "dissolute".) The sense of ‘upright’, used in reference to a dog’s tail, probably derives from the ‘happy’ sense of the word.


  • a UK , /geɪ/, /geI/
  • a US , /geɪ/, /geI/
    Rhymes with: -eɪ


  1. Happy, joyful, and lively.
    • 1810: Samuel Johnson, The Life of Thomas Yalden." The Works of the English Poets from Chaucer to Cowper; including the Series Edited with Prefaces, Biographical and Critical, by Dr. Samuel Johnson: and the Most Approved Translations, Alexander Chalmers, ed; 21 volumes, London, C. Wittingham, 1810
      ''Never was there a more copious fancy or greater reach of wit than what appears in Dr. Donne; nothing can be more gallant or genteel than the poems of Mr. Waller; nothing more gay or sprightly than those of sir John Suckling; and nothing fuller of variety and learning than Mr. Cowley’s.
  2. Festive, bright, or colourful.
    Don we now our gay apparel — (Deck the Halls
    Pennsylvania Dutch include the plain folk and the gay folk.
  3. Homosexual.
  4. Characteristic of homosexual appearance or behavior (often in a stereotypical sense).
    • 2005: Jason Christopher Hartley, Just Another Soldier: a year on the ground in Iraq
      This incident has become a source of much discussion, and the jury is still out on who is more gay: the guy who touched a dick or the guy who let a guy touch his dick. One could write volumes about the homophobically homoerotic undercurrents in the infantry.
  5. Feminine in behavior, or, non-masculine, behaving in a way associated with females.
  6. In the context of "slang|pejorative": Used to express dislike: Lame, uncool.
    • 2000, Nancy Updike, That's So Gay, Salon
      [Y]ou or someone you know has declared something gay in the last week. Not gay as in homosexual, but gay in that grade-school "That is so gay!" way, i.e. lame, wrongheaded, queer in the original sense. This is happening all around you. That woman’s hairdo? Gay. That book jacket? Gay. The fact that Dick and Lynne Cheney won’t talk about their lesbian daughter? Gay gay gay.
    This game is gay, let’s play a different one. = I dislike this game, let’s play a different one.
  7. In the context of "of a dog's tail": Upright or curved over the back.
    • 1997: Michael DeVine, Border Collies
      While the dog in concentrating at a given task, the tail is carried low and used for balance. In excitement it may rise level with the back. A “gay” tail is a fault.
    • 2000: David Leavitt, Martin Bauman; or, a Sure Thing
      By now Nora had left my side and was grappling with Maisie, trying to hold her still long enough to examine her bit. “You haven’t trained her well,” she muttered to Eli. “Oh, she’s got a gay tail!” Eli laughed. “A gay tail? What does that mean?” “It curls upward.” Nona let Maisie go. “Still, you never intended her to be a show dog,” she added. brushing off her skirt as she made for the house.

Usage notes

  • Gay is almost exclusively used today in the sense of homosexual and the related senses. The earlier uses of festive, colorful and bright can still be found, but have fallen out of fashion and are liable to be misunderstood, though if used in a way that suggests that a fashion is common among homosexuals, the two meanings do not necessarily contradict.
  • Gay is preferred to homosexual by many gay (homosexual) people as their own term for themselves, claiming that homosexual is dated and evokes a time when homosexuality was considered a mental illness by the mental health community.
  • Using gay to mean "lame, uncool" may be considered offensive.


  • (lame, uncool'':) ghey


happy, joyful and lively
festive, bright, colorful
typical of homosexual appearance
behaving in a way associated with females
lame, uncool (used to express dislike)

Derived terms


  1. (especially in plural or attributive) a homosexual, especially a male homosexual; see also lesbian.

Usage notes


homosexual person, especially male

Dictionary notes

  • MSN Encarta Dictionary lists 5 adjective senses, marking "merry", "bright", "carefree", and "debauched" as dated, leaving only "homosexual" unmarked.

Extensive Definition

In contemporary colloquial usage, the adjective gay usually refers to homosexuality.
In earlier and in literary usage, the word means "carefree", "happy", or "bright and showy". From the 1890s, it had begun to carry a connotation of promiscuity, as in a "gay house" referring to a brothel. It began to be used in reference to homosexuality in particular from the early 20th century, from the 1920s at the latest.
The word gay is sometimes used to refer to same-sex relationships more generally, as in "gay marriage", although this usage is discouraged by some LGBT supporters: the rationale is that this usage is exclusive of not only bisexual and transgender people but also lesbians who generally reject labels of being a subset of men, even gay men. While gay applies in some contexts to all homosexual people, the term lesbian is sex-specific: it is used exclusively to describe gay women. Sometimes gay is used to refer only to men.
In contemporary culture, the word 'gay' also has pejorative non-sexualized usage (especially among younger generations) to mean 'rubbish'; for something not considered good . The use of the term in this manner is contentious .


gay in Afrikaans: Gay
gay in Asturian: Gai
gay in Breton: Gae
gay in Bulgarian: Гей
gay in Welsh: Hoyw
gay in German: Schwul
gay in Modern Greek (1453-): Ομοφυλόφιλος
gay in Estonian: Gei
gay in Spanish: Gay
gay in Esperanto: Gejo
gay in French: Gay (homosexualité)
gay in Galician: Gai
gay in Croatian: Gej
gay in Italian: Gay
gay in Georgian: გეი
gay in Malayalam: കുണ്ടന്‍
gay in Macedonian: Геј маж
gay in Malay (macrolanguage): Gay
gay in Norwegian: Homofili
gay in Norwegian Nynorsk: Homofili
gay in Polish: Gej
gay in Portuguese: Gay
gay in Russian: Гей
gay in Simple English: Gay
gay in Serbian: Геј
gay in Serbo-Croatian: Gej
gay in Swedish: Gay
gay in Tagalog: Bakla
gay in Thai: เกย์
gay in Turkish: Gay
gay in Chinese: Gay

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

AC-DC, abandoned, addled, alert, amphierotic, animate, animated, antic, autoerotic, beaming, beatific, beatified, beery, bemused, besotted, bisexed, bisexual, blessed, blind drunk, blissful, blithe, blithesome, boon, brash, brave, bravura, braw, bright, bright-hued, brilliant, bubbling, bubbly, buoyant, burning, butch, cant, capering, capersome, carefree, cheerful, chichi, chipper, chirping, colorful, colory, coltish, confident, convivial, crapulent, crapulous, dancing, daring, dashing, debauched, debonair, deep-colored, deviant, devil-may-care, dissipated, dissolute, dizzy, drenched, dressy, drunk, drunken, effeminate, effervescent, exhibitionistic, exotic, exuberant, far-gone, fast, festal, festive, flashing, flashy, flaunting, flushed with joy, flustered, forward, fou, free, free and easy, frilly, frisky, frolicsome, frothy, full, full of beans, gala, gallant, gamesome, garish, gaudy, gay-colored, giddy, glad, gladsome, gleeful, glittering, glorious, glowing, gorgeous, hail-fellow-well-met, happy, hearty, high-colored, high-spirited, hilarious, homoerotic, homophile, homosexual, in liquor, inebriate, inebriated, inebrious, intense, intoxicated, inverted, jaunty, jazzy, jocund, jolly, jovial, joyful, joyous, jubilant, keen, laughing, leaping, lesbian, licentious, light-hearted, lighthearted, lively, mannish, many-colored, maudlin, mellow, merry, merrymaking, mirthful, muddled, nappy, on the loose, overweening, perverted, playful, presuming, profligate, purring, pushful, pushy, queer, radiant, raffish, rakehell, rakehellish, rakehelly, rakish, reeling, rich, rich-colored, rollicking, rollicksome, rompish, sapphic, self-assertive, shikker, showy, singing, skittish, smiling, smirking, snazzy, sodden, sotted, sparkling, spirited, splashy, splurgy, sportive, sporty, sprightly, starry-eyed, thrice happy, tiddly, tipsy, transvestite, tribadistic, unbridled, under the influence, vital, vivacious, vivid, wild, zestful, zippy
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