\ 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

Keep scrolling for more

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
See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Laing writes about growing up in a household with a gay mother, of formative years marching in protests and engaging in environmental activism, such as camping out in a treehouse in woods that were going to be cleared to make a bypass. Washington Post, "Olivia Laing’s ‘Everybody’ explores the power and vulnerabilities of the human body," 7 May 2021 Such films spoke especially to Koresky growing up, a gay boy who then did not yet know it. Barbara Vandenburgh, USA TODAY, "Review: Michael Koresky's ‘Films of Endearment’ a perfect Mother’s Day read for film lovers," 5 May 2021 Osborne, who came out in February to become one of very few openly gay country artists to be signed to a major label (EMI Nashville), was to be honored by the Tennessee state legislature. Lars Brandle, Billboard, "Republican Lawmaker Block Vote to Honor Gay Country Singer TJ Osborne Due to ‘Some Concerns’," 5 May 2021 Moutsos made headlines in 2014 when he was put on leave for refusing to work an assignment at a gay pride parade. Sara Tabin, The Salt Lake Tribune, "Former police officer who refused a Pride Parade assignment tapes a giant vaccine syringe burning in effigy in Utah," 5 May 2021 Regardless of what the legislature decides, gay couples can continue to adopt, said House Finance Chairman Scott Oelslager, a North Canton Republican who steered the budget bill through his chamber. Laura Hancock, cleveland, "Ohio House Republicans decline to change law to reflect same-sex couples’ adoptions of children," 4 May 2021 Brian Tyree Henry plays Phastos, the first openly gay superhero in the MCU. Erica Gonzales, Harper's BAZAAR, "Eternals: What We Know So Far," 3 May 2021 The sort of police raids on gay bars that led to the Stonewall uprising in 1969 became unimaginable decades ago. Stephen Engelberg, ProPublica, "How NYPD’s Vice Unit Got Prostitution Policing All Wrong," 3 May 2021 The racy video contains numerous biblical and Greek mythology references and includes the openly gay artist giving Satan a lap dance before snapping his neck. Melissa Ruggieri, ajc, "Lil Nas X will perform as musical guest on ‘Saturday Night Live’ in May," 3 May 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about gay

Time Traveler for gay

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Statistics for gay

Last Updated

11 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Gay.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 13 May. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

Keep scrolling for more

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

Comments on gay

What made you want to look up gay? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


Test Your Vocabulary

Words Used by Nabokov Quiz

  • image1676440788
  • Choose the best definition or synonym for the word in bold: "There are some eructations that sound like cheers—at least, mine did." Lolita
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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