\ ˈgā How to pronounce gay (audio) \

Definition of gay

 (Entry 1 of 2)

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 2)

sometimes disparaging + offensive, see usage paragraph below : a gay person especially : a gay man

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. a gay author they are both gay 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

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 And now for something completely different: a gay musical fantasia about a prince who falls in love with a fireman. David Fear, Rolling Stone, 17 Sep. 2022 The club argued that Yeshiva's plea to the Supreme Court was premature, also noting the university already has recognized a gay pride club at its law school. CBS News, 17 Sep. 2022 Attendance was strong, according to Tyner, and there is an expectation that the museum will feature an entire series on gay Mardi Gras organizations of both Mobile and New Orleans in the coming year. al, 16 Sep. 2022 As Colin pays a duty visit to see Joe, an angry former miner who homophobically disdains his openly gay son’s lifestyle in London, various members of staff and management get wind of Colin’s power and try to persuade him to save the Beth. Leslie Felperin, The Hollywood Reporter, 16 Sep. 2022 Republicans maintained conservative positions on religious liberty, gay rights and other social issues, and espoused a strong military and lower taxes while paying lip service to a smaller government and budgetary restraint. Michael Bobelian, Washington Post, 16 Sep. 2022 San Diego is a famously gay-friendly city, as anyone who was out and about during Pride weekend in July could inherently feel. San Diego Union-Tribune, 16 Sep. 2022 Last year, a unanimous Supreme Court ruled that a Catholic foster care agency in Philadelphia was entitled to turn away gay and lesbian couples as clients. John Fritze, USA TODAY, 15 Sep. 2022 All but disowned by his homophobic mom (a revelatory Gabrielle Union), Ellis (Jeremy Pope), a young, gay Black man who’s been living on the streets, decides to pull his life together and join the Marine Corps. Los Angeles Times, 15 Sep. 2022 See More

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.

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

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

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Last Updated

20 Sep 2022

Cite this Entry

“Gay.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Sep. 2022.

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More Definitions for gay


\ 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

Gay biographical name

\ ˈgā How to pronounce Gay (audio) \

Definition of Gay

John 1685–1732 English poet and dramatist

More from Merriam-Webster on gay

Nglish: Translation of gay for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of gay for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about gay

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