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LGBT slang, LGBT speak, or gay slang is a set of slang lexicon used predominantly among LGBT people. It has been used in various languages since the early 20th century as a means by which members of the LGBT community identify themselves and speak in code with brevity and speed to others.
History and context
Because of sodomy laws and threat of prosecution due to the criminalization of homosexuality, LGBT slang has served as an argot or cant, a secret language and a way for the LGBT community to communicate with each other publicly without revealing their sexual orientation to others. Since the advent of queer studies in universities, LGBT slang and argot has become a subject of academic research among linguistic anthropology scholars.
During the first seven decades of the 20th century, a specific form of Polari was developed by gay men and lesbians in urban centres of the United Kingdom within established LGBT communities. Although there are differences, contemporary British gay slang has adopted many Polari words. The 1964 legislative report Homosexuality and Citizenship in Florida contains an extensive appendix documenting and defining the homosexual slang in the United States at that time. SCRUFF launched a gay-slang dictionary app in 2014, which includes commonly used slang in the United States from the gay community. Specialized dictionaries that record LGBT slang have been found to revolve heavily around sexual matters.
Slang is ephemeral. Terms used in one generation may pass out of usage in another. For example, in the 1960s and 1970s, the terms "cottage" (chiefly British) and "tearoom" (chiefly American) were used to denote public toilets used for sex. By 1999, this terminology had fallen out of use to the point of being greatly unrecognizable by members of the LGBT community at large.
Many terms that originated as gay slang have become part of the popular lexicon. For example, the word drag was popularized by Hubert Selby Jr. in his book Last Exit to Brooklyn. Drag has been traced back by the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) to the late 19th Century. Conversely, words such as "banjee", while well-established in a subset of gay society, have never made the transition to popular use. Conversations between gay men have been found to use more slang and fewer commonly known terms about sexual behavior than conversations between straight men.
List of slang terms
|100-footer||an obviously gay or lesbian person (as if visible from 100 feet away)||US|||
|AC/DC||a slur towards bisexuals||US|||
|ace||short for someone who identifies on the asexual spectrum||global|||
|aro||short for someone who identifies on the aromantic spectrum||global|||
|short for someone who identifies as both aromantic and asexual||global|||
|ace of spades||someone who identifies as an aromantic asexual||global|||
|ace of hearts||someone who identifies as a romantic asexual||global|||
|artiste||a gay man who excels at fellatio||US|||
|auntie||an older, often effeminate and gossipy gay man||US|||
|baby butch||a young, boyish lesbian||US|||
|baby dyke||a young or recently out lesbian||US|||
|baby gay||a young or recently out gay person||US|
|baths||bathhouses frequented by gay men for sexual encounters||US|||
|bathsheba||a gay man who frequents gay bathhouses||US|||
|batty boy||a slur for gay or effeminate man||Jamaica|||
|beach bitch||a gay man who frequents beaches and resorts for sexual encounters||US|||
|bear||a large, often hairy, gay man||global|||
|bear chaser||a man who pursues bears||US|||
|beard||a person used as a date, romantic partner, or spouse to conceal one's sexual orientation||global|||
|beat||having or seeking anonymous gay sex||Australia|
|bent||gay, as opposed to straight||US|||
|bicon||an iconic bisexual+ individual||US|
|bi-fi||bisexual+ version of gaydar||U.S.|
|boi||a boyish lesbian||UK|||
|bottom||a passive male partner in anal intercourse; also used as a verb for the state of receiving sexual stimulation||global|||
|breeder||a heterosexual person, especially one with children||global|||
|brownie queen||a gay man who prefers a passive role in anal intercourse||US|||
|bucket boy||a passive male partner in anal intercourse||US|||
|bull dyke||a mannish lesbian, as opposed to a baby butch or dinky dyke||US|||
|butch||a white masculine lesbian||global|||
|cafeteria||repeated fellatio in a backroom or bathhouse||US|||
|camp, campy||effeminacy, effeminate||global|||
|carpet muncher, rug muncher||a lesbian/bisexual woman||global|||
|Chicken||Young gay man, usually recently out. Similar to twink||global|
|Chicken Hawk||Older gay man interested in young gay men (17-21)||global|
|chubby chaser||a man who seeks overweight males||US|||
|clone||a San Francisco or New York Greenwich Village denizen with exaggerated macho behavior and appearance||US|||
|closeted||keeping one's sexuality a secret from others||US|||
|cocksucker||a person who practices fellatio, usually a gay male||US|||
|come out (of the closet)||to admit or publicly acknowledge oneself as non-heterosexual/non-cisgender||US|||
|Copenhagen capon||a transsexual person (in reference to castration)||US|||
|cottage||a public toilet||UK|
|cottaging||having or seeking anonymous gay sex in a public toilet||UK|||
|cotton ceiling||lesbian refusal to have sex with a trans woman, particularly if the trans woman has not undergone sex reassignment surgery (a take-off on the term "glass ceiling", referring to women's underwear)||global|||
|cruising||seeking a casual gay sex encounter (historically from ancient Rome)||global|||
|cub||a typically heavier, hairier, and younger gay man||global|||
|daddy||a typically older gay man||US|||
|down-low||homosexual or bisexual activity, kept secret, by men who have sex with men||US (African American)|||
|dyke||a slur reclaimed by any woman who is attracted to women in the 1950s||global|||
|dykon||a celebrity woman who is seen as an icon by lesbians; may or may not be a lesbian herself||US|||
|egg||a (suspected, if referring to someone in the present) transgender person who has not realized they're trans yet. Used by transgender people when aspects of one's personality or behavior remind them of gender-related aspects of themselves before they realized they were trans.||global|
|enby||a non-binary person. the term derives from the abbreviation 'NB'||US|||
|en femme, en homme||the act of wearing clothes stereotypically of the opposite sex||global|||
|fag, faggot||a slur against gay men and some transgender women (first recorded in a Portland, Oregon, publication in 1914)||global|||
|fag hag||a woman who associates mostly or exclusively with gay and bisexual men||US|||
|fairy||a stereotypically gay man; a slur reclaimed by gay men in the 1960s||global|||
|femme||a feminine homosexual||US|||
|fish||a drag queen who is effeminate enough to pass as a cis woman|
|flamer||an effeminate gay man||global|||
|friend of Dorothy||a gay man||US|||
|fruit||a slur against gay men; originally a stereotype of gay men as "softer" and "smelling good"||global|||
|fudgepacker||a gay man; considered a slur||global|||
|gaydar||the intuitive ability of a person to guess someone's sexual orientation||global|
|gaymer||a gay gamer||global|
|gaysian||a gay Asian person||global|||
|Gillette Blade||a Bisexual+ feminine||UK|
|gold star||a homosexual who has never had heterosexual sexual intercourse||US|||
|heteroflexible||to be mostly heterosexual||global|||
|homoflexible||to be mostly gay||global|
|horatian||from the belated nineteenth century, term utilized at Oxford amongst Lord Byron along with his compatriots to a bisexual individual;a bisexual+ masculine||UK|
|lesbian until graduation (LUG)||a woman who experiments with bisexual or homosexual activity during school only||global|||
|lipstick lesbian||a lesbian/bisexual woman who displays historically feminine attributes such as wearing make-up, dresses, and high heels||global|||
|otter||a thinner, hairier gay man||US|||
|packing||the act of wearing padding or a phallic object to present the appearance of a penis||global|||
|passing||the act of being perceived by others as a cis person of one's preferred gender identity||global|||
|pillow princess||a lesbian who prefers to receive sexual stimulation (to bottom)||US|||
|poz||a usually gay, HIV-positive person||US|||
|punk||a smaller, younger gay man who, in prison settings, is forced into a submissive role and used for the older inmate's sexual pleasure||global|||
|queen||an effeminate gay man; commonly used in compounds such as "drag queen" or "rice queen"||global|||
|queer||originally a slur against homosexuals, transgender people, and anyone who does not fit society's standards of gender and sexuality; recently reclaimed and used as umbrella term for sexual and gender minorities||global|||
|soft butch, stem, stemme||an androgynous lesbian, in between femme and butch||US|||
|stone butch||a very masculine lesbian, or a butch lesbian who does not receive touch during intercourse, only giving||US|||
|stud||a black masculine lesbian|
|swish||effeminate or effeminacy||US|||
|terf||"trans-exclusionary radical feminist", a transphobe; one that targets trans women under the supposed guise of feminism.||global|||
|top||the dominant or inserting sexual partner, usually in a homosexual relation or activity||global|||
|twink||a slim and young-looking, bodily hairless man||global|||
|unicorn||a bisexual person who prefers to hook up with opposite sex couples||US|
|vers, switch||a person who enjoys both topping and bottoming, or being dominant and submissive, and may alternate between the two in sexual situations, adapting to their partner||global|
|wolf||a man who tends to fall evenly between a fox/twink or a bear/cub||UK|||
See also much longer LGBT Wiktionary index.
- Baker, Paul (2002). Polari – The Lost Language of Gay Men. Routledge. p. 1. ISBN 9780203167045. Retrieved 17 January 2010.
- Long, Daniel (1996). Formation Processes of Some Japanese Gay Argot Terms. 71. Duke University Press. pp. 215–224.
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- "Reports of Investigators on Meetings of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the Ku Klux Klan". State Archives and Library of Florida. 27 July 1964.
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- "Scruff, Gay Slang Dictionary". Archived from the original on October 6, 2016. Retrieved March 24, 2014.
- Green, Jonathon (2005). Cassell's Dictionary of Slang. p. 83. ISBN 9780304366361.
- "Definition of 'boi'". Collins English Dictionary. Retrieved 22 April 2019.
in British ... a lesbian who adopts a boyish appearance or manner
- Liu, Ling (26 July 2006). "Provincetown Straights Complain". SFGate. Archived from the original on 4 March 2007. Retrieved 21 March 2007.
- "Butch-Femme" (PDF). glbtqarchive. Retrieved 2018-07-12.
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- Ditum, Sarah (11 July 2018). "Why were lesbians protesting at Pride? Because the LGBT coalition leaves women behind". New Statesman America. Retrieved 15 April 2019.
- Yardley, Miranda (5 December 2018). "Girl Dick, the Cotton Ceiling and the Cultural War on Lesbians, Girls and Women". AfterEllen. Retrieved 8 October 2019.
- Dynes, Wayne R. (2016-03-22). Encyclopedia of homosexuality. Volume II. London. ISBN 9781317368113. OCLC 953858681.
- King, J.L.; Carreras, Courtney (25 April 2006). Coming Up from the Down Low: The Journey to Acceptance, Healing and Honest Love. Three Rivers Press. p. 36. Archived from the original on 18 August 2010. Retrieved 18 December 2009.
- Johnson, Jason (1 May 2005). "Secret Gay Encounters of Black Men Could Be Raising Women's Infection Rate". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 18 December 2009.
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- "enby - Wiktionary". en.wiktionary.org. Retrieved 2019-06-16.
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- Moon, Dawne (1995). "Insult and Inclusion: The Term Fag Hag and Gay Male Community". Social Forces. 74 (2): 487–510. doi:10.2307/2580489. JSTOR 2580489.
- "Definition of flamer". The Online Slang Dictionary. Retrieved 28 February 2015.
- Leap, William; Tom Boellstorff (2003). Speaking in Queer Tongues: Globalization and Gay Language. University of Illinois Press. p. 98. ISBN 978-0-252-07142-3.
- Dalzell, Tom; Victor, Terry, eds. (2013). The New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English. Routledge. p. 937. ISBN 9781317372523.
- "The Gaysian".
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- Rimer, Sara (June 5, 1993). "Campus Lesbians Step Into Unfamiliar Light". The New York Times.
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- Partridge, Eric; Victor, Terry, eds. (2006). The New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English: J–Z. Taylor & Francis. p. 1335. ISBN 978-0-415-25938-5.
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- Venning, Rachel; Cavanah, Claire (2003-09-16). Sex Toys 101: A Playfully Uninhibited Guide. Simon and Schuster. pp. 86–. ISBN 9780743243513. Retrieved 26 November 2012.
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swish noun [C] (LIKE A WOMAN) › US slang disapproving a man who behaves or appears in a way that is generally considered more suited to a woman, and who does not have traditional male qualities
- "swish - Gay Slang Dictionary". Archived from the original on 2 April 2015. Retrieved 28 February 2015.
swish #n. To overplay or over do homosexual gestures; the traits of an effeminate male homosexual. Source: [1930's] #Passive homosexual. #To walk speak or move in the manner of an weak effeminate boy or man; the stereotype effeminate homosexual.
- Goldberg, Michelle (2014-08-04). "What Is a Woman?". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2019-03-19.
The term can be useful for making a distinction with radical feminists who do not share the same position, but those at whom it is directed consider it a slur.
- London, H.J. (2018-06-29). "Transgender identities: a series of invited essays". The Economist. Retrieved 2019-03-19.
In the interests of fostering open debate we have set ground rules, both for essays and reader comments: use the pronouns people want you to use, and avoid all slurs, including TERF (trans-exclusionary radical feminist), which may have started as a descriptive term but is now used to try to silence a vast swathe of opinions on trans issues, and sometimes to incite violence against women.
- Ditum, Sarah (2017-09-29). "What is a Terf? How an internet buzzword became a mainstream slur". New Statesman America. Retrieved 2019-03-19.
Terf is now being used in a kind of discourse which has clear similarities with hate-speech directed at other groups…
- Compton, Julie (2019-01-14). "'Pro-lesbian' or 'trans-exclusionary'? Old animosities boil into public view". NBC News. Retrieved 2019-03-19.
Meghan Murphy claims the acronym TERF is 'hate speech' that incites 'violence against women.'
- Flaherty, Colleen (2018-08-29). "'TERF' War". Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved 2019-03-19.
For some, using the word 'TERF' means calling out transphobia where they see it. For others, the word is a slur that has no place in academic discourse.
- Weinberg, Justin (2018-08-27). "Derogatory Language in Philosophy Journal Risks Increased Hostility and Diminished Discussion". Daily Nous. Retrieved 2019-03-19.
…the term 'TERF', which is at worst a slur and at best derogatory.
- Eliason, Michele J. (26 October 2010). "A New Classification System for Lesbians: The Dyke Diagnostic Manual". Journal of Lesbian Studies. 14 (4): 401–14. doi:10.1080/10894161003677133. PMID 20661801. S2CID 205754307.
T., Anna (2020). Opacity - Minority - Improvisation: An Exploration of the Closet Through Queer Slangs and Postcolonial Theory. Bielefeld: Transcript. ISBN 978-3-8376-5133-1.