gay

1 of 2

adjective

1
a
: 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
2
a
: happily excited : merry
in a gay mood
b
: keenly alive and exuberant : having or inducing high spirits
a bird's gay spring song
3
a
: bright, lively
gay sunny meadows
b
: brilliant in color
4
: given to social pleasures
also : licentious
gay adverb
gayness noun

gay

2 of 2

noun

plural gays
sometimes disparaging + offensive; see usage paragraph below : a gay person
especially : a gay man
Usage of Gay

Use of the noun gay to refer to a particular person or particular people is commonly considered offensive. Phrases that employ the adjective are preferred

a gay author
they are both gay

over such uses as

The author is a gay.

and

They are both gays.

which employ the noun. 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.

the rights of gays and lesbians

It is also sometimes used neutrally to refer in a general way to gay people.

gays serving in the military

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

Examples of gay in a Sentence

Adjective The band was playing a gay tune. the gayest of the spring flowers
Recent Examples on the Web
Adjective
That the gay men and the community of South Florida are supporting the arts. Steve Rothaus, Sun Sentinel, 12 July 2024 Mecca for America’s gay liberation movement, Stonewall is the site where a dayslong protest for LGBTQ rights ensued in 1969 after police violently raided the establishment. Benjamin Kemper, Saveur, 11 July 2024 Yes, but: Hundreds of gay men were kicked out of a Dallas hotel over the weekend after members of the sorority complained about their attire, The Advocate reports. Tasha Tsiaperas, Axios, 9 July 2024 During World War II, Hitler's Nazi regime murdered six million Jews as well as untold numbers of others, including Romanies, Jehovah's Witnesses, gay people, people with disabilities, and more. Becky Perlow, ABC News, 8 July 2024 See all Example Sentences for gay 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'gay.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

Adjective

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

Noun

derivative of gay entry 1

First Known Use

Adjective

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

Noun

1953, in the meaning defined above

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

Dictionary Entries Near gay

Cite this Entry

“Gay.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/gay. Accessed 23 Jul. 2024.

Kids Definition

gay

adjective
ˈgā
gayer; gayest
1
: happily excited : merry
a gay mood
2
a
: cheerful sense 1a, lively
a gay meadow
b
: brilliant in color
3
: given to social pleasures
4
: of or relating to romantic attraction to people of one's same sex
gay adverb
gayness noun

Medical Definition

gay

adjective
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

Biographical Definition

Gay

biographical name

John 1685–1732 English poet and dramatist

More from Merriam-Webster on gay

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!