1 of 3


queerer; queerest
: differing in some way from what is usual or normal : odd, strange, weird
"How queer it seems," Alice said to herself, "to be going messages for a rabbit!"Lewis Carroll
The endless and numberless avenues of bewildering pine woods gave him a queer feeling that he was driving through the countless corridors of a dream.G. K. Chesterton
: eccentric, unconventional
Dwelling apart in the depths of the woods are the various kinds of mountaineers, —hunters, prospectors, and the like, —rare men, "queer characters," and well worth knowing.John Muir
sometimes disparaging + offensive; see usage paragraph below
: of, relating to, or characterized by sexual or romantic attraction to members of one's own sex : gay entry 1
Then I told them my story of being a Southern gay Christian alcoholic, or as a friend puts it, a queer, Bible-banging redneck drunk.Jonathan Odell
… the legendary Michigan Womyn's Music Festival, founded by lesbians in 1976 and still predominantly queer to this day.The Out Traveler
: of, relating to, or characterized by sexual or romantic attraction that is not limited to people of a particular gender identity or sexual orientation
Queer people who are attracted to multiple genders often face erasure of their sexuality when they begin a monogamous relationship or a marriage. But your sexuality is about your identity—not your partner's gender.Erika W. Smith
As a great deal of queer history has by now demonstrated, the strictly defined categories of "homosexual" and "heterosexual" are relatively new: bright lines drawn across the late-20th-century sexual landscape that made "coming out" a dichotomous choice.Deborah Cohen
: of, relating to, or being a person whose sexual orientation is not heterosexual and/or whose gender identity is not cisgender
queer spaces
the queer movement
For many queer folks, the clothing we wear can be a vital part of our identity expression. And thankfully, there are tons of businesses popping up, many of them internet-based, that offer queer folks clothes made by us, for us, whether that's lingerie fitted for transgender bodies or clothes cut to fit butch cisgender women.James Loke Hale
: of, relating to, or being a person whose gender identity cannot be categorized as solely male or female : genderqueer, nonbinary
For Watson, playing Susie was always about representing an honest queer experience that could help others better understand what it's like to be gender non-binary, whether they're queer or not.Shannon Carlin
: of, relating to, or being a person whose gender identity differs from the sex the person was identified as having at birth : transgender
high-heeled shoes in sizes large enough to meet queer fashion demands
see also queer studies, queer theory
chiefly British, old-fashioned
: questionable, suspicious
He will be working to spread quack medicines, queer investments …G. K. Chesterton
: sick, unwell
I did get a job once, but I was off for a week because I was queerSomerset Maugham
queerly adverb
queerness noun
None of the characters … come out during the movies' events, and no one's queerness is revealed as shocking … Jill Gutowitz
Usage of Queer

The adjective queer is now most frequently applied with its meanings relating to sexual orientation and/or gender identity, as outlined at sense 2 above. When these meanings were developing in the early 20th century, they were strongly pejorative, echoing the negative connotations of the word's older meanings, which included "weird," "suspicious," and "unwell." But the adjective today is commonly used as a positive or neutral self-descriptor, and also has wide use as a neutral broad descriptor for a large and varied group of people.

Contemporary Black activism has also largely been informed by the concurrent agitation surrounding trans and queer rights … Nelson George
Through interviews, mapping, and an examination of local history and present developments, this paper concludes that gays, lesbians and other members of the queer community often create the liberating social spaces that attract further settlement by "non-conformists." Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting

The term is also prominent as a neutral term in academic contexts that deal with gender and sexuality. Current neutral and positive uses notwithstanding, the word's long history of pejorative use continued into the current century, and some people still find the word offensive in any context.


2 of 3


plural queers
sometimes disparaging + offensive; see usage paragraph below : a queer person: such as
: a person who is gay, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, or otherwise not heterosexual
… he fixed her hair and he did her makeup and showed her how to dress, and when he was done she was so beautiful that he fell in love with her even though he was a queer.P. J. O'Rourke
: a person whose gender identity is nonbinary or differs from the sex they had or were identified as having at birth : a genderqueer or transgender person : a person who is not cisgender
Usage of Queer

While the noun queer is used as a neutral or positive self-descriptor, it has a long history of pejorative use and is likely to be considered offensive when used by someone who does not identify as queer.


3 of 3


queered; queering; queers

transitive verb

: to consider or interpret (something) from a perspective that rejects traditional categories of gender and sexuality : to apply ideas from queer theory to (something)
And knowledge of [his identity as a gay man] opens a path to consider how and to what degree his art queered—to use a term from academic theory—received versions of American culture: questioned their validity, revealed their contradictions, turned them inside out.Holland Cotter
The term genderqueer was originally coined in the 1990s to describe those who "queered" gender by defying oppressive gender norms in the course of their binary-defying activism.Vanessa Vitiello Urquhart
What struck me about this book when I read it nearly two decades ago was how she queered the lives of black women who depend on one another to survive, who love each other intimately, and who exist at the intersections of race, gender, class and sexuality. It is a raw and complex narrative about coming into one's self, becoming more familiar and at ease with all of the parts of one's self, and it is a powerful accounting of a black lesbian facing head-on her own adversities.Alicia Garza
: to make or modify (something) in a way that reflects one's rejection of gender and sexuality norms
As for the actual tea, [professor E. Patrick] Johnson notes, black gay men riff on family recipes, often making them boozy, queering the more sober versions from their youths.Kyle Fitzpatrick
: to spoil the effect or success of (something)
Nothing queers an investigation like moving too rapidly.Tom Clancy
: to put or get (someone or something) into an embarrassing or disadvantageous situation
Do you think she'll believe you after that? … You can't queer me with her.P. G. Wodehouse

Examples of queer in a Sentence

Adjective The sky was a queer shade of red. I had a queer feeling that something bad was about to happen. Verb The sudden storm queered our plans.
Recent Examples on the Web
Almodóvar’s gaze is more like a series of fun house mirrors here, passing through classic dime-store-novel narrative, the macho-man canon of midcentury Technicolor westerns and the winky camp of queering it all in circa-2023 couture. Leah Greenblatt, New York Times, 29 Sep. 2023

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'queer.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History



origin unknown

First Known Use


circa 1513, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1894, in the meaning defined above


1818, in the meaning defined at sense 2a

Time Traveler
The first known use of queer was circa 1513

Dictionary Entries Near queer

Cite this Entry

“Queer.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/queer. Accessed 28 Nov. 2023.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 adjective
: oddly unlike the usual or normal
a queer smell
: not quite well : queasy
feeling a little queer today
queerish adjective
queerly adverb
queerness noun


2 of 2 verb
: to spoil the effect or success of : disrupt
a sudden storm queered our plans
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