Gay is a term that primarily refers to a homosexual person or the trait of being homosexual. The term originally meant 'carefree', 'cheerful', or 'bright and showy'.[1]

While scant usage referring to male homosexuality dates to the late 19th century, that meaning became increasingly common by the mid-20th century.[2] In modern English, gay has come to be used as an adjective, and as a noun, referring to the community, practices and cultures associated with homosexuality. In the 1960s, gay became the word favored by homosexual men to describe their sexual orientation.[3] By the end of the 20th century, the word gay was recommended by major LGBT groups and style guides to describe people attracted to members of the same sex,[4][5] although it is more commonly used to refer specifically to men.[6]

At about the same time, a new, pejorative use became prevalent in some parts of the world. Among younger speakers, the word has a meaning ranging from derision (e.g., equivalent to 'rubbish' or 'stupid') to a light-hearted mockery or ridicule (e.g., equivalent to 'weak', 'unmanly', or 'lame'). The extent to which these usages still retain connotations of homosexuality has been debated and harshly criticized.[7][8]