\ ˈgā How to pronounce gay (audio) \

Definition of gay

 (Entry 1 of 3)

1a : of, relating to, or characterized by sexual or romantic attraction to people of one's same sex gay men a gay woman in her 40s often used to refer to men only gay and lesbian members of the community
b : of, relating to, or intended for people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, etc. the gay rights movement a gay bar
2a : happily excited : merry in a gay mood
b : keenly alive and exuberant : having or inducing high spirits a bird's gay spring song
3a : bright, lively gay sunny meadows
b : brilliant in color
4 : given to social pleasures also : licentious


plural gays

Definition of gay (Entry 2 of 3)

sometimes disparaging + offensive, see usage paragraph below : a gay person especially : a gay man


biographical name
\ ˈgā How to pronounce Gay (audio) \

Definition of Gay (Entry 3 of 3)

John 1685–1732 English poet and dramatist

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Other Words from gay


gay adverb
gayness noun

Choose the Right Synonym for gay


lively, animated, vivacious, sprightly, gay mean keenly alive and spirited. lively suggests briskness, alertness, or energy. a lively debate on the issues animated applies to what is spirited and active. an animated discussion of current events vivacious suggests an activeness of gesture and wit, often playful or alluring. a vivacious party host sprightly suggests lightness and spirited vigor of manner or wit. a tuneful, sprightly musical gay stresses complete freedom from care and overflowing spirits. the gay spirit of Paris in the 1920s

Usage of Gay


Use of the noun gay to refer to a particular person ("the author is a gay") or particular people ("they are both gays") is commonly considered offensive. Instead, phrases that employ the adjective are preferred, as in "a gay author," "they are both gay," etc. The noun does, however, function as a neutral or positive self-descriptor, and in its plural form is common especially in phrases with other plural nouns that relate to sexual orientation and gender identity, as in "the rights of gays and lesbians." It is also sometimes used neutrally to refer in a general way to gay people, as in "gays serving in the military."

Examples of gay in a Sentence

Adjective The band was playing a gay tune. the gayest of the spring flowers Noun a bar that is frequented by gays
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective That suit, which ended in a confidential settlement, alleged that a supervisor she was assigned to used racial epithets and told her to discourage gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals from seeking beds at the shelter. Steven Goode,, "Windsor Housing Authority executive director files federal lawsuit," 28 Mar. 2021 There are also gay, bisexual and transgender white men. Michael Obsatz, Star Tribune, "Not all white men are the same," 24 Mar. 2021 The idea that my clothes were 'gay' created this expectation that really stressed me out. Molly Greeves,, "Why I Embraced Looking ‘Like A Lesbian’," 24 Mar. 2021 This zealotry upsets not only conservatives; prospective students also realize the limited utility of a degree in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender studies. Daniel Pipes, WSJ, "The Future of U.S. Higher Education: A Few Stars, Many Satellites," 21 Mar. 2021 San Diego Musical Theatre San Diego Musical Theatre president and co-founder Erin Lewis said the company’s staff is highly diverse, with employees who are transgender, gay, Black, Asian, women and a U.K. immigrant. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Theater’s day of reckoning: San Diego stage companies answer the call for equity, diversity and inclusion," 20 Mar. 2021 These changes come as a new poll revealed that more American adults than before are identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. Kaanita Iyer, USA TODAY, "Potato Head goes gender neutral. What is gender neutrality and how can I be more inclusive?," 27 Feb. 2021 The poll found that more than half of LGBT adults (54.6%) identify as bisexual, about a quarter (24.5%) as gay, 11.7% as lesbian and 11.3% as transgender. Meredith Deliso, ABC News, "More Americans identify as LGBT than ever before: Poll," 24 Feb. 2021 This means that nearly 12 percent of all Gen Z adults identify as bisexual, and about 2 percent each identify as gay, lesbian or transgender. Washington Post, "1 in 6 Gen Z adults are LGBT. And this number could continue to grow.," 24 Feb. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'gay.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of gay


13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 3a


1953, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for gay


Middle English, from Anglo-French gai, of Germanic origin; akin to Old High German gāhi quick, sudden


derivative of gay entry 1

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Time Traveler for gay

Time Traveler

The first known use of gay was in the 13th century

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Statistics for gay

Last Updated

5 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Gay.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 15 Apr. 2021.

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More Definitions for gay



English Language Learners Definition of gay

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: sexually attracted to someone who is the same sex
: of, relating to, or used by homosexuals
old-fashioned : happy and excited : cheerful and lively



English Language Learners Definition of gay (Entry 2 of 2)

: a person and especially a man who is homosexual


\ ˈgā How to pronounce gay (audio) \
gayer; gayest

Kids Definition of gay

1 : merry sense 1, happy Setsu grew … into a gay, willful, pretty girl.— Pearl S. Buck, The Big Wave
2 : cheerful and lively They played a gay tune.
3 : brightly colored a gay dress


\ ˈgā How to pronounce gay (audio) \

Medical Definition of gay

1 : of, relating to, or characterized by sexual or romantic attraction to individuals of one's same sex gay men a gay woman in her 40s often used to refer to men only gay and lesbian members of the community
2 : of, relating to, or intended for people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, etc. gay issues

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