Green’s Dictionary of Slang

gay adj.

[the use of gay as a self-description by homosexuals originated shortly after WWI, prob. an abbr. of US tramp sl. gaycat n., the young homosexual companion of an older tramp; but note Rodgers, The Queen’s Vernacular (1972) suggests: ‘fr. 16th cent Fr. gaie = homosexual man’; this has not been substantiated); the wider use in the heterosexual world did not begin until c.1970, with the emergence of the Gay Liberation Front, first in the US and subseq. in the UK. With the decline of derog. terms, such as queer adj. (5), gay is now effectively SE; thus note Melly, Owning Up (1965): ‘I’d never heard the word “gay” at that time [i.e. 1945]. “Queer” was in more general use even among homosexuals’]

1. [late 14C; mid-19C–1920s] of a woman, leading an immoral life, working as a prostitute.

2. [17C–1930s] promiscuous, dissipated; cite 1863 (2) is used of a place.

3. [mid-18C–1920s] slightly drunk, tipsy.

4. [mid-19C–1920s] (also gey) fine, first-rate.

5. [late 19C–1910s] (US, also gey) forward, impertinent, over-familiar; esp. in phr. get gay (with), to be cheeky, impertinent (towards).

6. [1920s+] (orig. US) of sexual orientation, homosexual; thus gayly adv. .

7. [1920s+] of a place, catering for or frequented by homosexuals.

8. [1920s+] of behaviour, mannerisms, feelings, events, social circles etc, homosexual.

9. [1980s+] (orig. US campus) a general pej.; stupid, ugly, eccentric, weak; of a man, lacking in masculinity but not actually homosexual.

In derivatives

Gayborhood (n.)

[1990s+] (US) an area of a town or city mainly frequented by homosexuals.

Pertaining to female promiscuity or prostitution

In compounds

gay dirt (n.)

[1960s] (US gay) a tough, masculine homosexual who expects money or gifts as a reward for sexual favours.

gay girl (n.)

1. [mid-19C] a promiscuous girl or woman.

2. a lesbian.

gay house (n.) [house n.1 (1)]

[18C–1900s] a brothel or a lodging house where the rooms were hired for couples to have intercourse.

gay lady (n.)

[mid–late 19C] a prostitute.

In phrases

gay in the arse (adj.) (also gay in the groin) [arse n. (2a)]

[19C] of a woman, promiscuous.

go gay (v.)

1. [16C] to commit adultery.

2. [late 19C] to pursue a career as a prostitute.

3. [1930s] to become homosexual.

4. [1940s–60s] (Aus.) to have sexual intercourse.

Pertaining to homosexuality

In derivatives

gayola (n.) [-ola sfx; on pattern of SE payola]

1. [1960s+] (US Und.) pay-offs and bribes made to police or organized crime to permit the running of gay clubs; also attrib.

2. [1980s+] (US) a homosexual man.

In compounds

gaybo (n.) [abbr. of next]

[1980s] a male homosexual.

gay boy (n.)

[1910s+] (US) a male homosexual.


see separate entries.

gaydar (n.) [play on SE radar]

[1980s+] (gay) the (alleged) sensory perception that lesbians and gays have of detecting other gay people in their midst.

gay girl (n.)

[1970s+] (US gay) a stereotypically effeminate homosexual man.

gay goddess (n.)

[1990s+] (US gay) a heterosexual woman who prefers the company of gay men.

gaylord (n.)

[1980s+] an ineffectual individual, thence a homosexual.

gay trade (n.) [trade n. (3)]

[1940s+] a homosexual man who is happy to be fellated or to perform anal intercourse but will not reciprocate by offering his mouth or anus in return.

gaywad (n.)

[1990s+] (US) a general term of abuse, the implication being of homosexuality or lack of masculinity.

SE in slang uses

In compounds

gay deceivers (n.) [pun on original use, a deceitful rake]

1. [1940s+] a padded brassiere that accentuates the shape and dimensions of otherwise diminutive female breasts.

2. [1960s] (US gay) a large artificial penis worn beneath the trousers to accentuate one’s apparent sexual allure.

In phrases

do the gay (v.)

[late 19C] to have a good time.

gay tyke boy (n.) [SE tyke, a dog]

[mid-19C] a dog-fancier.

Gay White Way (n.)

see separate entry.

get gay (with) (v.)

1. [late 19C–1910s] to be aggressive; to behave unpleasantly.

2. [late 19C–1960s] (mainly US) to tease, to provoke, to be flippant.

3. [1900s–50s] to go into action, to get on with things.

4. to have sex.

5. [1940s] (US drugs) to take drugs, to get intoxicated.