(comparative gayer, superlative gayest)
- Happy, joyful, and lively.
- Festive, bright, or colourful.
- Pennsylvania Dutch include the plain folk and the gay folk.
- 1881, J. P. McCaskey (edit), “Deck the Hall[sic]”, Franklin Square Song Collection, number 1, Harper & Brothers (New York), page 120
- Don we now our gay apparel.
- 1944, Ralph Blane, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”, Meet Me in St. Louis, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
- Make the Yule-tide gay / From now on our troubles will be miles away
- 1879, House of Commons, Great Britain, Reports from committees, p. 61
- ...it is possible for people to be diseased without being prostitutes or gay women; it is possible for people years ago to have spent a gay life and to have not got rid of their disease, or they may have become diseased by their husbands or lovers.
- 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, p. 399
- Gay (common, loose, dissipated; a "gay woman" or "gay girl," a prostitute. "All gay," vide All gay.
- 1898, John Mackinnon Robertson, G. Aston Singer, "The Social Evil Problem" in The University magazine and free review: a monthly magazine, Volume 9, p. 308
- She imprudently forms the acquaintance of a "gay girl" living in the same street.
- 1899, Henry Fielding, Edmund Gosse, The works of Henry Fielding with an introduction, Volume 11, p. 290
- "As nothing could be more gay, i.e., debauched, than Zeno's court, so the ladies of gay disposition had great sway in it; particularly one, whose name was Fausta, who, though not extremely handsome, was by her wit and sprightliness very agreeable to the emperor.
- (of a person or animal, especially a male person) Possessing sexual and emotional attraction towards members of the same gender or sex.
- (of a romantic or sexual act or relationship) Being between two people of the same gender or the same sex; especially, being between two men.
- Gay marriage, though legal here, is still very controversial.
- Although the number of gay weddings has increased significantly, many gay and lesbian couples — like many straight couples — are not interested in getting married.
- gay sex, gay acts
- (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.
- In accordance with stereotypes of homosexual people:
- (loosely, of appearance or behavi) Being in accordance with stereotypes of gay people, especially gay men.
- (loosely, of a person, especially a man) Exhibiting appearance or behavior that accords with stereotypes of gay people, especially gay men.
- A pejorative:
- (slang, pejorative, dated) Effeminate or flamboyant in behavior.
- (slang, pejorative) Used to express dislike: lame, uncool, stupid.
- This game is gay; let’s play a different one. = I dislike this game; let’s play a different one.
- (of a dog's tail) Upright or curved over the back.
- (colloquial) fun, fabulous, tasteful; fashionable. [from 21th c.]
- Her decor is quite gay just in time for the new season. = Her house is decorated fabulously and tastefully.
"Gay may be regarded as offensive when used as a noun to refer to particular individuals."
From Middle English gay, from Old French gai (“joyful, laughing, merry”), probably a borrowing of Old Provençal gai (“impetuous, lively”), from Gothic (gaheis, “impetuous”), merging with earlier Old French jai ("merry"; see jay), from Frankish *gāhi; both from Proto-Germanic *ganhuz, *ganhwaz (“sudden”), from Proto-Indo-European *ǵʰengʰ- (“to stride, step”), from *ǵʰēy- (“to go”). Cognate with Dutch gauw (“fast, quickly”), Westphalian Low German gau, gai (“fast, quick”), German jäh (“abrupt, sudden”). For more information, see the entries gang and go.
Anatoly Liberman, following Frank Chance and Harri Meier, believes Old French gai was instead a native development from Latin vagus (“wandering, inconstant, flighty”), with *[w] > [g] as in French gaine.
The sense of homosexual (first recorded no later than 1947) was shortened from earlier gay cat ‘homosexual boy’ in underworld and prison slang, itself first attested about 1935, but used earlier for a young tramp or hobo attached to an older one.
The reason behind the recent pejorative usage is not documented, though it is primarily speculated to be due to hostility towards homosexuality.
The sense of ‘upright’, used in reference to a dog’s tail, probably derives from the ‘happy’ sense of the word.
From Pitman kay, which it is derived from graphically, and the sound it represents. The traditional name gee was considered inappropriate, as the Pitman letter never has the sound of that name.