According to Wikipedia, "daddy" is a slang term in gay culture meaning an (typically) older man sexually involved in a relationship or wanting sex with a younger male.

There are currently, however, no references whatsoever on the Wikipedia page.

What is the first documented usage of this term in this context?

For context, I am puzzling over the following lines from Finnegans Wake.

What a quhare soort of a mahan.
It is evident the michindaddy.

If I follow "quhare" to queer, I am wondering if this queer-kuvar-cook mahan-bear-man is merely a michen-underhand- michers-pilfering-poaching-father, or if I am missing something deeper in "michindaddy". I am asking myself if I am seeing a father or a "daddy", "daddy" being rare in Finnegans Wake, as opposed to say "pa"?

  • 5
    How is this any different than the use of the word in heterosexual relationships between a younger woman and an older man? Jul 16, 2019 at 17:32
  • 4
    No references to back this up, but I don’t think this originated in gay culture. I would venture that younger women interested in older men have been said to have ‘daddy issues’ (i.e., reverse Oedipus complex) for longer than the same has been said of younger guys interested in older men. The daddy reference definitely refers to the older partner’s age from the younger partner’s relative viewpoint – but it became more common in the areas of gay culture that are somewhat obsessed with creating ‘tribes’ to fit into, depending on body type, sage and preferred type. Jul 16, 2019 at 17:33
  • @Jason Bassford The context in which I encountered the word "daddy" was one that had already introduced homosexuality, a book in the 1930. Googling lead me to the OP Wikipedia article. But if the term has a man-girl etymology that would also be important.
    – fundagain
    Jul 16, 2019 at 17:35
  • 1
    I think you are looking for first documented usage rather than etymology. Daddy , whatever its usage, is just taken from the original term daddy. etymonline.com/word/daddy
    – user 66974
    Jul 16, 2019 at 17:57
  • 1
    Could you include the passage in the question? It seems so unlikely that James Joyce (of all people) would be using the modern gay-slang sense of daddy in 1939. Jul 16, 2019 at 18:04

1 Answer 1


As the diminutive of dad formed with -y, daddy emerged in the sixteenth century as a child-like way to refer to one's father. The Oxford English Dictionary under "daddy, n." gives a first attested usage from John Skelton:

1523 J. Skelton Goodly Garlande of Laurell sig. Dii/2 By saynt mary my lady your mammy and your dady Brought forth a godely babi.

And the next quote explains the child-centered context of its usage:

1552 R. Huloet Abcedarium Anglico Latinum Dadde or daddy, as infantes cal their fathers.

Over the next couple of centuries, usage applied more widely to figurative fathers, people older or in a position of management, domesticated slaves, and musicians:

(from def. 1b) 1682 J. Phillips Conf. Observator & Heraclitus 12 He opposes the Priviledges of his Enthusiastick Parliament, to the Royalties of Holy Daddy.

(from def. 1c) 1886 Graphic 10 Apr. 399/2 The manager himself is sometimes known as the ‘gorger’, and ‘daddy’ is the stage-manager.

(from def. 2a) 1837 Southern Literary Messenger Dec. 744/1 These [domestics] too were greeted always by the kind appellatives of ‘daddy and mammy’—and ‘uncle and aunt’;—and I have even now living, a jet black ‘daddy’ and two ‘uncles’.

(from def. 2a) 1948 New Yorker 3 July 28 The bebop people have a language of their own. They call each other Pops, Daddy, and Dick.

By the early 20th century, daddy was used to refer to a male partner in a heterosexual relationship. It appeared to come first from African-American usage (early usages are from sheet music, suggesting they were first recorded as blues and jazz lyrics), after which it entered wider usage:

  1. b. U.S. (in early use chiefly in African-American usage). A woman's male lover; a husband. Frequently as a form of address. Cf. papa n.2 2a, sugar daddy n. at sugar n. Compounds 3a.

1919 P. Bradford I'm Crazy 'bout your Lovin' (sheet music) 2 I've got a lovin daddy Who cert'nly can love sweet.

1999 J. Ridley Everybody smokes in Hell 129 I'm touching myself, Daddy. Are you touching yourself?

The OED then identifies the first application to a homosexual partner as "Prison slang":

  1. Prison slang. A man who takes an active or dominant role in a homosexual relationship, esp. one who provides physical protection to a (typically younger) more vulnerable inmate.

1933 V. F. Nelson Prison Days & Nights vi. 150 The active participants [in homosexual intercourse]..who are known as ‘wolves’, ‘jockers’, ‘daddies’, etc., are generally looked upon with comparative respect.

It distinguishes this from general applications to homosexual relationships, which appear by the end of the next decade:

  1. Among gay men: a masculine older man; spec. one who is romantically or sexually interested in younger partners, sometimes with the implication that such a man will play a more (sexually) active or dominant role (cf. sense 4).With quot. 1949, cf. sense 2b.

The first quote makes a direct connection to heterosexual usage, suggesting that the application of daddy to dominant homosexual male partners was an extension of applying it to dominant heterosexual male partners:

[1949 ‘Swasarnt Nerf’ in H. Hagius Gay Guides for 1949 (2010) 58 The following words..are frequently used..in a sense..equivalent to, their meaning in straight English (slang)... Bitch..daddy..faggot 1.]

In short, daddy acquired a transferred sense of referring to older men or male figures. One sense was applied to male lovers of women; by the 1930s and 1940s this was most likely transferred to male lovers of men.

1 I condemn using faggot in a derogative sense, and only use this example because it is important to the answer.

  • 1
    Now that answers your specific question. I have no clue how you'll apply that to James Joyce. My only caution would be that you'd want to look more closely at when daddy entered British English or Irish English in this sense. That's a different question. Jul 16, 2019 at 18:35
  • 2
    @Cascabel It was intentional but clumsy. I didn't know if there was a better way to format a footnote. Feel free to edit it for the sake of appearance. Jul 16, 2019 at 18:42
  • 1
    I can't see any other way to do it except all in HTML, and I am too lazy too reformat the entire block of text. Maybe later. Jul 16, 2019 at 19:03
  • 1
    WOW...I sure learned a lot here, but about formatting! Thanks T Feel free to mark the comments as "obsolete" but they might also serve to help others looking for nswers on formatting. Jul 16, 2019 at 20:08
  • 2
    @Cascabel You can also nest sub- and superscripts, as I’ve now done with the note here – that makes it smaller than the body text, emphasising the footnotal (notific? notorial? What is the adjective for a footnote?) status of the text, although it does result in a somewhat unaesthetic line spacing (as you can see). Jul 16, 2019 at 20:20

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.