\ 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 Although this fictional adoption didn't work out as planned, Ricamora hopes the episode will bring awareness of how this happens to gay couples in real life. Rosy Cordero,, "The Resident star Conrad Ricamora on Jake's growing bond with Bell amid heartbreak: 'This is a huge step'," 14 Apr. 2021 But the adoption service at the heart of the case – Catholic Social Services – refused to comply, asserting that not being allowed to discriminate against gay couples infringed upon its religious beliefs. Steven K. Green, The Conversation, "How the Supreme Court found its faith and put ‘religious liberty’ on a winning streak," 13 Apr. 2021 Grattan’s short stories have been especially adept at rendering the emotional and physical gropings of adolescent gay boys, whose gestures of affection often get lost in aggressive disguises. Thomas Mallon, The New Yorker, "In Thomas Grattan’s Début Novel, Historical Fiction Gets Personal," 12 Apr. 2021 Magnus was said to be the first openly gay male police chief to marry. Vanessa Arredondo, San Francisco Chronicle, "Biden to nominate former Bay Area police chief to lead U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency," 12 Apr. 2021 If confirmed, Magnus, who is openly gay and married to his husband of 15 years, could become one of the highest-ranking LGBT officials in the U.S. government and in law enforcement. Rafael Carranza, The Arizona Republic, "Biden taps Tucson Police Chief Chris Magnus to lead overburdened U.S. border enforcement agency," 12 Apr. 2021 An American version premiered on Showtime just a year after the British original’s debut and centered on a group of gay and lesbian friends living in Pittsburgh. NBC News, "'Queer as Folk' reboot coming to NBC's Peacock network," 9 Apr. 2021 For Nicholas, being gay means being hyper-aware, a survival-minded observer shrewd enough to deflect any aggressive jock talk that grows threatening. Robert Abele, Los Angeles Times, "Review: ‘Moffie’ adroitly depicts a gay man’s life in the apartheid-era South African army," 8 Apr. 2021 That means Randall and Aries Tax Service legally can deny services to gay couples such as Amy and Stephanie Mudd, according to Hartman. Billy Kobin, The Courier-Journal, "Kentucky tax preparer says couples welcome, but 'homosexual marriage not recognized'," 7 Apr. 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

17 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Gay.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 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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