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Gay (homosexual) and gay (happy)

I'm curious if there's a definitive moment where the word "gay" started being applied to homosexuals. Was it a specific coining, or just a general linguistic movement, and when.

  • @Mehper C. Palavuzlar: Oftentimes it's not that easy to find an earlier dup, because our search facilities here mainly focus on the exact words in question titles, and there's little standardisation on that front. But typing "gay" into the search box puts that one top of the list. Sigh. Jan 3, 2012 at 21:50

1 Answer 1


Etymonline has an interesting entry on the etymology of the word, gay, with the sense homosexual:

The association with (male) homosexuality likely got a boost from the term gay cat, used as far back as 1893 in American English for "young hobo," one who is new on the road, also one who sometimes does jobs.

"A Gay Cat," said he, "is a loafing laborer, who works maybe a week, gets his wages and vagabonds about hunting for another 'pick and shovel' job. Do you want to know where they got their monica (nickname) 'Gay Cat'? See, Kid, cats sneak about and scratch immediately after chumming with you and then get gay (fresh). That's why we call them 'Gay Cats'." [Leon Ray Livingston ("America's Most Celebrated Tramp"), "Life and Adventures of A-no. 1," 1910]

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