\ 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 Buttigieg became the first out gay Cabinet member to go before the Senate to be confirmed for presidential appointment; Levine, who has not yet been confirmed, would become the first trans official to do so. Kate Sosin, USA TODAY, "Biden administration suggests it will add 'X' gender markers to federal documents," 22 Feb. 2021 The area remains solidly Republican, although Democrats have captured two county commission seats representing Traverse City, which has a gay mayor. John Flesher, Detroit Free Press, "Gun display during Zoom call reveals racial undercurrent in Traverse City," 22 Feb. 2021 As acting director of National Intelligence for three months last year, Richard Grenell was the first openly gay Cabinet member. Lindsey Mcginnis, The Christian Science Monitor, "Points of Progress: New Zealand recognizes Māori new year, and more," 19 Feb. 2021 Although Asian American and openly gay, Ngo’s political leanings did not mesh with his school’s and hometown’s progressive bent or their promotion of social justice causes. oregonlive, "How Portland’s Andy Ngo turned his war with ‘antifa’ into a dubious, best-selling book," 13 Feb. 2021 Especially as a Black gay man working in music, Vincint understands the importance of properly using a platform. Stephen Daw, Billboard, "Vincint Shares 10 Black Creatives Who Inspire Him for Black History Month," 12 Feb. 2021 LaMaster, who lived in New York City before moving to Baltimore, said the Maryland city lacked the visible gay scene found in a neighborhood like Chelsea in New York City. Mike Schneider, Star Tribune, "Diverse group of cities have highest rates of gay households," 25 Feb. 2021 Following the majority which identify as bisexual, the poll shows that nearly a quarter of LGBTQ adults -- 24.5% -- identify as gay, followed by 11.7% as lesbian and 11.3% as transgender. Maria Morava And Scottie Andrew, CNN, "More Americans are identifying as LGBTQ than ever before, poll finds," 24 Feb. 2021 In addition to showing how successive generations identify themselves as LGBT in greater percentages, Gallup also found that the overwhelming group is not gay or lesbian but bisexual, at 54%. Paul Bedard, Washington Examiner, "Gen Z: 1 in 6 identify as LGBT," 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

28 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Gay.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 Mar. 2021.

Style: MLA
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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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Comments on gay

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