\ 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 onlygay 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


The noun gay is sometimes considered offensive. Instead, phrases that employ the adjective tend to be preferred, as in "a gay man/woman," "gay people," etc.

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 Moir was Tempe's first openly gay police chief and the first woman to hold the position. Bree Burkitt, The Arizona Republic, "Tempe police Chief Sylvia Moir resigns, will leave role in October," 15 Sep. 2020 The Eternals confirmed that for the first time in over a decade of Marvel movies, there will be an openly gay superhero, Phastos, played by Brian Tyree Henry. Sarah Midkiff, refinery29.com, "The 5 Very Specific Realities Represented In HBO’s Coastal Elites," 12 Sep. 2020 Based on a true story, the film follows Miller's Jadin, a gay teenager facing relentless bullying in rural Oregon, and his father Joe (Wahlberg), who struggles to understand or fully accept his son's sexuality. David Canfield, EW.com, "Good Joe Bell breakout Reid Miller is this TIFF's heartbreaking revelation," 11 Sep. 2020 Smollett, an openly gay Black actor, was originally indicted in March 2019 with 16 counts of disorderly conduct for allegedly filing a false report claiming two men attacked him on Jan. 29, 2019, while spewing racist and homophobic slurs. Benjamin Vanhoose, PEOPLE.com, "Jussie Smollett Speaks Out About Alleged 2019 Attack in Rare Interview: 'They Won't Let This Go'," 10 Sep. 2020 The new Pentagon guidance comes three months after the Supreme Court ruled that a landmark civil rights law protects gay and transgender workers from workplace discrimination, a ruling that does not apply to the U.S. military. Jamie Mcintyre, Washington Examiner, "President Trump loves the military, just not its leaders, according to Woodward’s book," 10 Sep. 2020 The university launched its crackdown after a gay student was rejected from a leadership position in a campus Christian group. Collin Binkley, Star Tribune, "New Trump rule ties college funding to speech, faith rights," 9 Sep. 2020 It’s about how the gay-straight alliance club at a progressive high school is thrown into chaos when a scandal breaks out online. Pam Kragen, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Felder to live-cast Gershwin show from historic Florentine theater on Sunday," 8 Sep. 2020 Along with its adjacent neighborhood, Greenwich Village, Chelsea was the epicenter of gay life in Manhattan, and consequently one of the places hit hardest by the AIDS pandemic. Sophie Vershbow, Vogue, "In a Pandemic, Rediscovering What Home Means," 5 Sep. 2020

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

19 Sep 2020

Cite this Entry

“Gay.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/gay. Accessed 25 Sep. 2020.

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More Definitions for gay

How to pronounce Gay (audio)

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 onlygay 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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