• (British, America) enPR: gā, IPA: /ɡeɪ/

gay (comparative gayer, superlative gayest)

  1. (dated, possibly, archaic) Happy, joyful, and lively.
    The Gay Science
    • 1405 Geoffrey Chaucer, The Wife of Bath's Tale, The Canterbury Tales (source):
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    • circa 1692 William Walch, preface to Letters and Poems, Amorous and Gallant, in John Dryden, The Fourth Part of Miſcellany Poems, Jacob Tonson (publisher, 1716), page 338 ↗:
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    • 1934, George Marion Jr. et al., (title):
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    • 1974, Lawrence Durrell, Monsieur (Faber & Faber 1992), page 252:
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  2. (dated) Quick, fast.
    • 1873, Gwordie Greenup, Yance a Year, 25:
      I went a gay shack, / For it started to rain.
    • 1918, Hunter-trader-trapper, page 36:
      We launched our canoe and were off at a gay clip for Hackettstown, where Mart had a married sister, and we were figuring on big eats.
    • 2016, Laura Jean Libbey, Mischievous Maid Faynie, Library of Alexandria (ISBN 9781465612335):
      " […] there is no one more competent to make it fly at a gay pace than myself. A prince of the royal blood couldn't go at a faster pace than I have been going during these last three weeks! Ha, ha, ha!" In a moment he was kneeling before the safe.
    • 2019, Lawrence Lariar, He Died Laughing, Open Road Media (ISBN 9781504056427):
      We shot along Sunset Boulevard at a gay pace, and squealed a turn down Vine Street with never a jitterbug pedestrian to make the driving interesting.
  3. (dated, possibly, archaic) Festive, bright, or colourful.
    Pennsylvania Dutch include the plain folk and the gay folk.
    • 1667, John Milton, “Book 10”, in Paradise Lost. A Poem Written in Ten Books, London: Printed [by Samuel Simmons], and are to be sold by Peter Parker […] [a]nd by Robert Boulter […] [a]nd Matthias Walker, […], OCLC 228722708 ↗; republished as Paradise Lost in Ten Books: The Text Exactly Reproduced from the First Edition of 1667: […], London: Basil Montagu Pickering […], 1873, OCLC 230729554 ↗:
      A Beavie of fair women, richly gay / In gems and wanton dress.
    • 1881, J. P. McCaskey (editor), “Deck the Hall[sic]”, Franklin Square Song Collection, number 1, Harper & Brothers (New York), page 120:
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    • 1944, Ralph Blane, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”, Meet Me in St. Louis, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
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  4. (obsolete) Sexually promiscuous (of any gender), (sometimes particularly) engaged in prostitution.
    • 1806 (edition of 1815), John Davis, The Post-Captain, page 150:
      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!" exclaimed Echo, "if I know which way my ship heads; but there is not a girl in the Strand that I would touch with my gloves on."
    • 1856, Bayle St. John, The Subalpine kingdom: or, Experiences and studies in Savoy, Piedmont, and Genoa, Volume 2 [*+man%22+%22debauched%22&hl=en&sa=X&ei=iCV8T9GLFoeYiAeLqJmeCQ&ved=0CEYQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=%22gay%20*%20man%22%20%22debauched%22&f=false page 158]:
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    • 1879, House of Commons, Great Britain, Reports from committees, page 61 ↗:
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    • 1889, Albert Barrère, Charles Godfrey Leland, A Dictionary of Slang, Jargon & Cant: Embracing English, American, and Anglo-Indian Slang, Pidgin English, Tinker's Jargon and Other Irregular Phraseology, Volume 1, page 399 ↗:
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    • 1898, John Mackinnon Robertson, G. Aston Singer, "The Social Evil Problem" in The University magazine and free review: a monthly magazine, Volume 9, page 308 ↗:
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    • 1899, Henry Fielding, Edmund Gosse (editor), The works of Henry Fielding with an introduction, Volume 11, page 290 ↗:
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    • 1937, Dorothy L. Sayers, Busman's Honeymoon, page 357:
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  5. Homosexual:
    1. (of a person or animal) Possessing sexual and/or emotional attraction towards members of the same gender or non-anti-gender area.
      Gay marriage, though legal here, is still very controversial.
      gay sex
      gay acts
      • 1947, Rorschach Research Exchange and Journal of Projective Techniques, page 240:
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      • 2003, Michael McAvennie, The World Wrestling Entertainment Yearbook:
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      • 2009, Betty Jean Lifton, Lost & Found: the Adoption Experience, page 67:
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      • 2010, Noėl Sturgeon, Environmentalism in Popular Culture: Gender, Race, Sexuality, and the Politics of the Natural, page 128 ↗:
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    2. (of a romantic or sexual act or relationship) Being between two or more people of the same gender or the same gender-area, especially between two men.
      Although the number of gay weddings has increased significantly, many gay and lesbian couples — like many straight couples — are not interested in getting married.
    3. (of an institution or group) Intended for gay people, especially gay men.
      She professes an undying love for gay bars and gay movies, and even admits to having watched gay porn.
      • 2003, Lawrence Block, Small Town, page 269:
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      • 2004, Martin Hughes, Sarah Johnstone, Tom Masters, London, page 208:
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      • 2010, Jay Mohr, No Wonder My Parents Drank: Tales from a Stand-Up Dad, page 252:
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    4. (slang, with for) Homosexually in love with someone.
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    5. (slang, with for) In love with something, usually as a homosexual.
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    6. In accordance with stereotypes of homosexual people:
      1. (loosely, of appearance or behavior) Being in accordance with stereotypes of gay people, especially gay men.
      2. (loosely, of a person, especially a man) Exhibiting appearance or behavior that accords with stereotypes of gay people, especially gay men.
        • ante 2005 Jason Christopher Hartley, “October 23, 2004: This Is My Weapon, This Is My Gerber”, in Just Another Soldier: A Year on the Ground in Iraq, HarperCollins (2005), ISBN 0-06-084366-7, page 25 ↗:
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  6. A pejorative:
    1. (slang, pejorative, dated) Effeminate or flamboyant in behavior.
    2. (slang, pejorative) Used to express dislike: lame, uncool, stupid.
      Synonyms: ghey
      This game is gay; let’s play a different one.
      • 1996, [ Lisa's Date With Density], The Simpsons (cartoon television series). Upon discovering Nelson kissing Lisa:
        Dolph: "Oh, man! You kissed a girl!"
        Jimbo: "That is so gay!"
  7. (of a dog's tail) Upright or curved over the back.
  8. (Scotland, Northern England, possibly, obsolete) Considerable, great, large in number, size, or degree.
    • 1832, George Pearson, Evenings by Eden-side: Or, Essays and Poems, page 67:
      As his reply was rather characteristic, I will give it : Many of them come a gay bit off.
    • 1872, William Cullen Bryant, A Library of Poetry and Song, page 106:
      Thou 's wantin' a sweetheart? Thou 's had a gay few! An' thou 's cheatit them, […]
    • 1876 (edition; original 1871), Richardson, Talk 1:
      A gay deal different to what I is noo.
    • 1881, Dixon, Craven Dales:
      There were a gay bit of lace on it.
    • 1881, Edwin Waugh, Tufts of Heather, I. 106:
      T'country-side was rid on him for a gay while.
    • 1895, Sir Hall Caine, The Shadow of a Crime: A Cumbrian Romance, page 131:
      "He has a gay bit of gumption in him, has Ray. It'll be no kitten play to catch hold on him, and they know that they do." The emphasis was accompanied by a lowered tone, and a sidelong motion of the head towards a doorway […]
    • 1903, Robert Smith Surtees, Handley Cross, New York : D. Appleton, page 431:
      "It's a gay bit off, though." "Trot on!" retorted Mr. Jorrocks anxiously, spurring Arterxerxes vehemently, an insult that the animal resented by a duck of his head and a hoist of his heels. Bump, bump, trot, trot, squash, splash, swosh, they went  ...
Related terms Translations Translations Translations Translations Translations Translations Noun

gay (plural gays)

  1. (chiefly, in plural or attributive) A homosexual, especially a male homosexual; see also lesbian.
  2. (dialectal, obsolete) Something which is bright or colorful, such as a picture or a flower.
    • 1839, Charles Clark, John Noakes and Mary Styles, st. 157:
      At a stall soon Mary bote / A hume-book full ov gays.
    • 1892, P. H. Emerson, A Son of the Fens, page 73:
      I had no books to read, but plenty of gays to look at.
    • 1893, Cozens-Hardy, Broad Nrf., page 38:
      ‘Can't you mow the aftermath in the churchyard before Sunday?’ ‘Not time enough, sir, but I'll cut off they gays.’
    • ante 1900 W. R. Eaton of Norfolk, quoted in 1900, Joseph Wright, The English Dialect Dictionary:
      There's a good child; look at the gays, and keep quiet.
  3. (obsolete) An ornament, a knick-knack.
    • , L'Estrange:
      Look upon precepts in emblems, as they do to upon gays and pictures.
    • 1906, Cornish Notes & Queries: (first Series) (Cornish Telegraph, Peter Penn), page 132:
      If however the stranger be suspected of “sailing under false colours," when they are all in familiar chat about nothing in particular, “Cousin Jacky” will take occasion to say to the new chum, “My dear; ded 'e ever see a duck clunk a gay?" [...] no more deceived by him than a duck can be made to clunk (swallow) a gay (fragment of broken crockery).
Synonyms Translations Verb

gay (gays, present participle gaying; past and past participle gayed)

  1. (transitive, dated, uncommon) To make happy or cheerful. [since at least the 1920s]
    • 1922, Thomas Hardy, Late lyrics and earlier: with many other verses, page 119:
      SAYING GOOD-BYE (song)
      WE are always saying / "Good-bye, good-bye! / In work, in playing, / In gloom, in gaying […]
    • 1952, American Childhood, volume 38, page 2:
      Gaying Things Up For Christmas. JESSIE TODD, Laboratory School, University of Chicago.
      EVERY schoolroom in America is gayed up for Christmas.
  2. (transitive, uncommon) To cause (something, e.g. AIDS) to be associated with homosexual people. [popularized in the 1990s]
Related terms Adverb


  1. (Scotland, Northern England, possibly, obsolete) Considerably, very.
    • 1833, John Sim Sands, Poems on Various Subjects, page 115:
      And, tho' his guts ware lank and toom, / They're twice as big's this gay big room.
    • 1869, Joseph Carr, Sketches of village life, by “Eavesdropper”, page 60:
      Now, to end my story, if o' t' village beauties wad git t' religion that good auld parson Jenkins recommends, it wad gay sharply mak' t' dirty women clean, […]
    • 1875, Dickinson, Cumbriana; Or, Fragments of Cumbrian Life, page 8:
      […] an' be t' Silver Cwove, an' than throo t' Pillar, an' a gay rough bit o' grund it is!
    • 1886, Thomas Farrall, Betty Wilson's Cummerland Teals, 42:
      When a fellah com' in 'at was gay free wid spendin.
    • 1892-3, Mrs. Humphry Ward, The History of David Grieve, volume I, page 19:
      She'll mak naw moor mischeef neets—she's gay quiet now!

gay (plural gays)

  1. The letter , which stands for the sound IPAchar /ɡ/, in Pitman shorthand.
Related terms
  • gee (in Latin script)

Proper noun
  1. Surname, originally a nickname for a cheerful or lively person.
  2. A female given name from the word gay, "joyful"; rare today.
  3. A male given name. Also a shortened form of Gabriel, Gaylord and similar names, or transferred from the surname.
    • 1992 Gay Talese, Unto the Sons, Ballantine Books 1993, ISBN 0804110336, page 15
      - - - my father's father, Gaetano Talese (whose name I inherited after my birth in 1932, in the anglicized form "Gay"), was an atypically fearless traveler,
    • 2004 Annie Proulx, Bad Dirt, Fourth Estate, ISBN 0007196911, page 32
      "Mr Gay Brawls. What a name."
      "It didn't use to mean what it means now. Plenty were named Gay. Even in Nevada. Was old Gay Pitch had a gas station in Winnemucca. Nobody thought nothin about it and he raised a railroad car of kids.

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