Definition of queer in English:
- Something in Dana's head felt weird, but not any stranger than the queer feeling in her heart.
- I invite you to relive this most extraordinary of expeditions with me as we explore the strange and queer lands of England, Scotland, and the airport in Germany.
- The only strange thing was a queer kind of mound, in a glade by the bank of a stream.
nouninformal , offensive Back to top
verb[with object] informal Back to top
- Aware, in his mid-forties, that all the time off for cricket had queered his prospects for mainstream advancement at the bank, Alan seized the new career opportunity.
- My dismount, however, would have queered my chances for even the bronze.
- And it's the families that could wind up queering this deal.
Early 16th century: considered to be from German quer 'oblique, perverse', but the origin is doubtful.
There is some doubt as to the origin of queer, but it may come from German quer ‘oblique, perverse’. ‘Eccentric’ and ‘strange’ were early senses, though there was also the notion ‘of questionable character, dubious’. The meaning ‘unwell, ill’ dates from the late 18th century, although it is often avoided now because of the potential confusion with the derogatory sense ‘homosexual’, recorded from the late 19th century.
A rather old-fashioned way of saying that someone is in difficulty, especially by being in debt, is to say that they are in Queer Street. This was an imaginary street where people in difficulties were supposed to live. Since the early 19th century the phrase has suggested various kinds of misfortune, though mainly financial difficulty: ‘Queer Street is full of lodgers just at present’ (Charles Dickens, Our Mutual Friend, 1865). To queer someone's pitch is to spoil their chances of doing something, especially secretly or maliciously. This started out as 19th-century slang. The ‘pitch’ in question was probably the spot where street performers stationed themselves or the site of a market trader's stall. There's nowt so queer as folk is first recorded in 1905, though it is described as an ‘old saying’. Nowt is a Northern English variant of nought, ‘nothing’.
The word queer was first used to mean ‘homosexual’ in the early 20th century: it was originally, and usually still is, a deliberately offensive and aggressive term when used by heterosexual people. In recent years, however, some gay people have taken the word queer and deliberately used it in place of gay or homosexual, in an attempt, by using the word positively, to deprive it of its negative power. This use of queer is now well established and widely used among gay people (especially as an adjective or noun modifier, as in queer rights; queer-bashing) and at present exists alongside the other use.
- Example sentences
- Queer and queerish films have come increasingly de rigueur in the modern cinema landscape, with a subsequent broadening of the types of queers portrayed.
- ‘I am just off to India …’, EM Forster wrote to his publisher in a letter disclosed for the first time yesterday, ‘I expect to have an interesting time and penetrate into queerish places.’
- The ex-senator as full of queerish ideas as usual.
- Example sentences
- Although his tone was practical I thought I could catch an undernote of dismay queerly mixed with relief.
- It was as if Nabokov had glimpsed the legions of Barthesans (rhymes with partisans) coming around some queerly straightened bend in time, and liked what he saw.
- The order forbade them from ‘approving of’ or ‘permitting’ a sick-out, queerly assuming that they might have the power to prevent one.
- Example sentences
- William Blackwood and Sons, publishers of Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, had been stomaching queerness and Scotchness - and much else besides - for the best part of a century.
- Society would be more interested in studying the artistic and literary tradition associated with queerness than it would be in researching the causes and effects of homosexuality.
- Widespread violence meeting assertions of queerness and women's rights indicate the fundamental challenges that these movements embody.
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