• There is no historical case for homosexual ownership of ‘gay’. So can we have our word back, please.’ —Paul Johnson, 1995.

This typifies the reaction of many people to this major change, occurring from the mid-20c but with occasional earlier evidence, in the use of a basic English word. At this time, the homosexual community made it clear that they wanted to be called gay instead of homosexual or any of the other derogatory names including fag, faggot, fairy, homo, pansy, and queer. The first substantial evidence is from the 1950s:

• In a way it was an odd threesome. It occurred to me that Esther rather hung round our two gay boys —E. Lambert, 1951.

The historical basis for this use of gay is sometimes sought in earlier meanings: (17c) ‘addicted to social pleasures and dissipations’ (as in gay dog and gay Lothario) and (19c) ‘(said of a woman) leading an immoral life, living by prostitution’. But these older and hardly favourable meanings constitute dubious precedents, and in all probability the connection was impressionistic rather than analytical. Whatever the case, the new meaning looks here to stay, and dictionaries of current English tend to list it first of the several meanings of gay. There are a number of points to be made in defence of the new meaning: it is useful to have a word that is not offensive; the traditional meaning of gay was in any case acquiring something of a period flavour; and there are plenty of synonyms available: merry, jolly, cheerful, happy, high-spirited, lively, and others that can be found in a good thesaurus.
2. Gay is also used in the meaning ‘intended for, used by, or associated with homosexuals’ (as in gay bar and gay politics), and as a noun:

• What about gays, one asks, and will there be facilities for them to relate significantly to each other? —Sunday Telegraph, 1985.

Unlike the adjectival use, however, the noun gay usually denotes male homosexuals only, and the phrase lesbians and gays (or the other way round) is used to show clearly that both sexes are meant:

• One end result has been an increase in the extent to which gays and lesbians have been subjected to physical violence —J. Dollimore, 1991

• Mariela continues much of her mother's work through the national centre for sex education, of which she is director, an organisation that campaigns for the rights of lesbians, gays and transsexuals —Guardian, 2007.

The gay gene is a slang term for DNA sequences which can predispose an individual to homosexuality.
3. It should be mentioned that, despite all the inhibitions reviewed above, the traditional meaning of gay is still alive and well for some writers:

• She had lived a very gay life in London, when she was on the stage —Nina Bawden, 1991

• But she disobeyed him, brought the baby out, and he had never found her so gay, so welcoming —Marina Warner, 1992.

Modern English usage. 2014.

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • gay — gay …   Dictionnaire des rimes

  • gay — late 14c., full of joy, merry; light hearted, carefree; also wanton, lewd, lascivious (late 12c. as a surname, Philippus de Gay), from O.Fr. gai joyful, happy; pleasant, agreeably charming; forward, pert (12c.; Cf. O.Sp. gayo, Port. gaio, It.… …   Etymology dictionary

  • Gay — ist ein aus dem Englischen übernommenes Fremdwort für homosexuell. Es wird als Adjektiv im allgemeinen Sprachgebrauch des deutschsprachigen Raumes häufig synonym mit schwul verwendet, weil es mehrheitlich als weniger direkt und dennoch nicht so… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • gay — [ gɛ ] adj. inv. • 1952 dans un contexte américain; mot angl. « gai » par euphém. ♦ Relatif à l homosexualité masculine, aux homosexuels. Des bars gay. N. m. Homosexuel. Les gays. (Parfois francisé en gai.) ⊗ HOM. Gai, guai, guet. ● gay adjectif… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • gay — GAY, Gaye. adj. Joyeux. Un homme gay. un visage gay. mine gaye. humeur gaye. esprit gay. estre gay. rendre gay. se tenir gay. devenir gay. avoir l esprit gay, l oeil gay. avoir un air gay. il est gay & gaillard. Il sign. aussi, Ce qui resjoüit.… …   Dictionnaire de l'Académie française

  • — URL: …   Википедия

  • GAY (J.) — GAY JOHN (1685 1732) Orphelin dès l’âge de dix ans, John Gay fut placé par son oncle à l’école de Barnstaple où il eut un bon maître latiniste, qui lui donna l’amour des classiques. À sa sortie de l’école, il fut pris en apprentissage chez un… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Gay — (g[=a]), a. [Compar. {Gayer}; superl. {Gayest}.] [F. gai, perhaps fr. OHG. g?hi swift, rapid, G. g[ a]h, j[ a]h, steep, hasty; or cf. OHG. w?hi beatiful, good. Cf. {Jay}.] [1913 Webster] 1. Excited with merriment; manifesting sportiveness or… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Gay — Gay: Gay мужчина с гомосексуальной идентичностью, другие названия: гомосексуал, голубой, человек с нетрадиционной сексуальной ориентацией. Gay фамилия «Гей» на иностранных языках. Gay   общепринятое сокращение (обозначение) имени… …   Википедия

  • Gay — /gay/, n. 1. John, 1685 1732, English poet and dramatist. 2. a female or male given name. * * * (as used in expressions) gay rights movement Gay John Gay Lussac Joseph Louis Marvin Pentz Gay * * * …   Universalium

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