gay (gā) pronunciation
adj., gay·er, gay·est.
1. Of, relating to, or having a sexual orientation to persons of the same sex.
2. Showing or characterized by cheerfulness and lighthearted excitement; merry.
3. Bright or lively, especially in color: a gay, sunny room.
4. Given to social pleasures.
5. Dissolute; licentious.
1. A person whose sexual orientation is to persons of the same sex.
2. A man whose sexual orientation is to men: an alliance of gays and lesbians.
[Middle English gai, lighthearted, brightly colored, from Old French, possibly of Germanic origin.]
gayness gay'ness n.
USAGE NOTE The word gay is now standard in its use to refer to people whose orientation is to the same sex, in large part because it is the term that most gay people prefer in referring to themselves. Gay is distinguished from homosexual primarily by the emphasis it places on the cultural and social aspects of homosexuality as opposed to sexual practice. Many writers reserve gay for males, but the word is also used to refer to both sexes; when the intended meaning is not clear in the context, the phrase gay and lesbian may be used. Gay is often considered objectionable when used as a noun to refer to particular individuals, as in There were two gays on the panel; here phrasing such as Two members of the panel were gay should be used instead. But there is no objection to the use of the noun in the plural to refer collectively either to gay men or to gay men and lesbians, so long as it is clear whether men alone or both men and women are being discussed. See Usage Notes at homosexual.