Share this entry

Share this page

queer

Line breaks: queer
Pronunciation: /kwɪə
 
/

Definition of queer in English:

adjective

1Strange; odd: she had a queer feeling that they were being watched
More example sentences
  • 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.
Synonyms
suspicious, dubious, questionable;
Scottish unco
informal fishy, creepy, spooky, freaky
British informal rum
North American informal off the wall
suspicious, suspect, irregular, questionable, dubious, doubtful, funny, mysterious, murky, dark, criminal, dishonest, corrupt, nefarious, crafty, deceitful, shifty, underhand, dishonourable, unscrupulous, unprincipled, fraudulent, illegal, unlawful
informal fishy, shady, bent
1.1 [predicative] British informal , dated Slightly ill: he was feeling rather queer
Synonyms
ill, unwell, poorly, bad, out of sorts, indisposed, not oneself, sick, queasy, nauseous, nauseated, peaky, liverish, green about the gills, run down, washed out, faint, dizzy, giddy;
British off, off colour
informal under the weather, below par, not up to par, funny, peculiar, rough, lousy, rotten, awful, terrible, dreadful
British informal grotty, ropy
Scottish informal wabbit, peely-wally
Australian/New Zealand informal crook
vulgar slang crappy
dated seedy
rare peaked, peakish
2 informal , often offensive Homosexual.

noun

informal , offensive Back to top  

verb

[with object] informal Back to top  
Spoil or ruin (an agreement, event, or situation): Reg didn’t want someone meddling and queering the deal at the last minute
More example sentences
  • 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.
Synonyms
spoil, damage, impair, harm, be detrimental to, mar, wreck, destroy, devastate, smash, shatter, scupper, scotch, disrupt, undo, thwart, hinder, foil, ruin, blight, injure, cripple, hurt, jeopardize, endanger, imperil, threaten, put at risk, undermine, prejudice, be prejudicial to, be disadvantageous to, play havoc with, be deleterious to, compromise
informal botch, blow, put the kibosh on

Origin

early 16th century: considered to be from German quer 'oblique, perverse', but the origin is doubtful.

More
  • 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’.

Usage

The word queer was first used to meanhomosexual’ 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, 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.

Phrases

in Queer Street

1
British informal , dated In difficulty, typically by being in debt.
Synonyms
poor as a church mouse, without a sou, in straitened circumstances, on one's beam ends, unable to make ends meet;
British on the breadline, without a penny (to one's name)
informal broke, flat broke, strapped for cash, cleaned out, strapped, on one's uppers, without two pennies/brass farthings to rub together
British informal skint, boracic, stony broke
North American informal stone broke
rare pauperized, beggared

queer fish

2
British informal
A person whose behaviour seems strange or unusual: they have invariably chosen the queer fish in preference to the more or less recognisable member of the human race
More example sentences
  • The musical is a queer fish, but youth theatre thrives on such challenges.

queer someone's pitch

3
British informal Spoil someone’s plans or chances of doing something, especially secretly or maliciously.
Example sentences
  • This is the time of the year, when commercial establishments queer their pitch for selling their products.
  • It would seem likely that there is at least an oral agreement that Corel will not start any more such lawsuits to queer Microsoft 's pitch in the corporate marketplace.
  • Nor did he want to queer his pitch with the Labour leadership, when he decided to press forward with his avowed intention to seek re-entry to the party at a later date.

Derivatives

queerish

1
adjective
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.

queerly

2
adverb
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.

queerness

3
noun
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.

Definition of queer in:

Share this entry

Share this page

 

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.

Get more from Oxford Dictionaries

Subscribe to remove adverts and access premium resources

Word of the day resilient
Pronunciation: rɪˈzɪlɪənt
adjective
able to recoil or spring back into shape…