Definition of gay in English:

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Pronunciation: /ɡā/

adjective (gayer, gayest)

1(Of a person, especially a man) homosexual: that friend of yours, is he gay?
More example sentences
  • I'm gay and happy to be so.
  • He would end the ban on openly gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals serving in the armed forces.
  • Legal skirmishes can be expected across the country as gay couples seek recognition of their new marriage licenses.
informal queer
informal queer, camp, pink, lavender, homo
literary Uranian
1.1Relating to or used by homosexuals: feminist, black, and gay perspectives
More example sentences
  • Check out the local phone book for gay bars and gay bookstores.
  • He was spotted in a gay bar in Washington, DC.
  • It is also home to a thriving, resilient and somewhat embattled, lesbian and gay community, with five gay bars, a gay theatre, and a community centre.
2Lighthearted and carefree: Nan had a gay disposition and a very pretty face
More example sentences
  • And she laughed, laughed at how happy, gay, and carefree her tone sounded.
  • Some people cannot take criticism, and expect everything to always be happy and gay.
  • Yes I know this must come as a shock to you since I am normally such a gay and carefree chap, brimming with chuckles and mirth.
2.1Brightly colored; showy; brilliant: a gay profusion of purple and pink sweet peas
More example sentences
  • The picture was all the more poignant for me because of the stark contrast offered by the youngsters' skeletal bodies and the gay colours and rich decoration of their mothers' dresses.
  • It was quite a sight, after the War and four years of dreary austerity in England, to see girls whirling round the dance floor in pretty full-length evening dresses in gay colours.
  • So, uh, is the uniform jet black and sombre or colourful and gay?
3 informal, offensive Foolish, stupid, or unimpressive: making students wait for the light is kind of a gay rule


A homosexual, especially a man.
Example sentences
  • Discrimination against lesbians and gays in other areas of life is also commonplace.
  • She began by telling her parents that she was planning a documentary film on gays and lesbians in India.
  • John is a repressed gay living with his old mum.


Gay meaning ‘homosexual,’ dating back to the 1930s (if not earlier), became established in the 1960s as the term preferred by homosexual men to describe themselves. It is now the standard accepted term throughout the English-speaking world. As a result, the centuries-old other senses of gay meaning either ‘carefree’ or ‘bright and showy,’ once common in speech and literature, are much less frequent. The word gay cannot be readily used today in these older senses without sounding old-fashioned or arousing a sense of double entendre, despite concerted attempts by some to keep them alive. Gay in its modern sense typically refers to men (lesbian being the standard term for homosexual women), but in some contexts it can be used of both men and women.


Middle English (sense 2 of the adjective): from Old French gai, of unknown origin.

  • In its original sense of ‘light-hearted and carefree, exuberantly cheerful’, gay goes back to the 14th century and derives from Old French gai. By the 17th century the meaning had extended to ‘addicted to social pleasures’, often with an implication of loose morality, as in, for example, the expression gay dog (a man fond of revelry), or these lines from William Cowper's poem ‘To a Young Lady’ (1782): ‘Silent and chaste she steal along / Far from the world's gay busy throng’. In slang use the word could describe a prostitute. The use of gay to mean ‘homosexual’, now the main meaning, is unambiguously found in examples from the 1930s, though there is evidence that it may have been used in this sense earlier.

Words that rhyme with gay

affray, agley, aka, allay, Angers, A-OK, appellation contrôlée, array, assay, astray, au fait, auto-da-fé, away, aweigh, aye, bay, belay, betray, bey, Bombay, Bordet, boulevardier, bouquet, brae, bray, café au lait, Carné, cassoulet, Cathay, chassé, chevet, chez, chiné, clay, convey, Cray, crème brûlée, crudités, cuvée, cy-pres, day, decay, deejay, dégagé, distinguée, downplay, dray, Dufay, Dushanbe, eh, embay, engagé, essay, everyday, faraway, fay, fey, flay, fray, Frey, fromage frais, gainsay, Gaye, Genet, giclee, gilet, glissé, gray, grey, halfway, hay, heigh, hey, hooray, Hubei, Hué, hurray, inveigh, jay, jeunesse dorée, José, Kay, Kaye, Klee, Kray, Lae, lay, lei, Littré, Lough Neagh, lwei, Mae, maguey, Malay, Mallarmé, Mandalay, Marseilles, may, midday, midway, mislay, misplay, Monterrey, Na-Dene, nay, né, née, neigh, Ney, noway, obey, O'Dea, okay, olé, outlay, outplay, outstay, outweigh, oyez, part-way, pay, Pei, per se, pince-nez, play, portray, pray, prey, purvey, qua, Quai d'Orsay, Rae, rangé, ray, re, reflet, relevé, roman-à-clef, Santa Fé, say, sei, Shar Pei, shay, slay, sleigh, sley, spae, spay, Spey, splay, spray, stay, straightaway, straightway, strathspey, stray, Sui, survey, sway, Taipei, Tay, they, today, tokay, Torbay, Tournai, trait, tray, trey, two-way, ukiyo-e, underlay, way, waylay, Wei, weigh, wey, Whangarei, whey, yea

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: gay

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