This dictionary.com definition pretty much sums up my understanding of what the word queer is supposed to mean. However, in modern times (at least here in the US, perhap someone else can speak for other regions), it seems the word has been appropriated to solely mean homosexual.

Is it still acceptable to use the word in the sense of "odd", "strange", or "unusual", or does it now only carry a derogatory/offensive connotation? Would using it in this sense be considered offensive?

  • There are actually more such words gradually falling into disrepute/ semantic distortion. What about 'gay' itself, as in in gay abandon so familiar not long ago?
    – Kris
    Dec 23, 2011 at 11:12
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    Queer doesn't mean homosexual. It means not heterosexual, and plenty of us identify ourselves as such. More and more, the word is used less as a slur and more as a simple description (a la LGBTQ).
    – user13141
    Dec 23, 2011 at 20:05
  • @onomatomaniak That is what I'm getting at. Since it is used to mean not heterosexual, would using it to mean strange be offensive?
    – yoozer8
    Dec 23, 2011 at 21:11
  • I wouldn't be at all offended (but then, I rarely am). I'd say that its meaning has been kind of monopolized when it comes to references to people, though. Calling a book queer sounds old-fashioned to me, not bigoted.
    – user13141
    Dec 23, 2011 at 21:14
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    I believe in academic circles (queer studies programs exist in several universities) even heterosexuals can be considered queer if they are poly-amorous or kinky, for example. Queer more precisely might mean "of a sexual minority" or "non-straight" when applied to people.
    – DMc
    Jan 12, 2012 at 19:42

1 Answer 1


In the Corpus of Current American English, there are 64 uses of queer in the last year, and good chunk of them appear to have the meaning of "strange" rather than "homosexual", but the vast majority (perhaps all) of the "strange" uses describe things, not people. It seems that at least in the US today, a queer person is usually a homosexual, and if you don't intend that meaning, you might want to choose another adjective.

On another note, it is the term of choice for a large part of that community and wouldn't be derogatory if used respectfully.

  • 1
    I use queer to mean strange all the time, I actually find it being used to mean homosexual offensive. Dec 23, 2011 at 4:48
  • +1 for suggesting use of "queer" to mean strange with respect to objects, not people. For people I believe the term has been appropriated. I'd +1 again, if it were possible, for pointing out that appropriated terms like "queer" are not derogatory unless they are used as a slur.
    – Joel Brown
    Dec 23, 2011 at 13:20
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    In the corpus you cite, it seems to me that many of the uses of "queer" in the sense of "strange" are not exactly modern. Although they have recent dates, some are quoting or imitating older works, or the word is spoken or thought by a character from an earlier era. To my US English ears, using "queer" to mean "strange" sounds dated at best. I think this may be less the case in British English. Dec 23, 2011 at 16:26

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