LGBT slang

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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, including English and Japanese, since the early 1900s as a means by which members of the LGBT community can identify themselves and speak in code with brevity and speed to others.[1][2]


Because of sodomy laws and threat of prosecution due to the criminalization of homosexuality, LGBT slang also serves as an argot, a secret language and a way for the LGBT community to communicate with each other publicly without revealing their sexual orientation to others.[2][3][4]

Cultural research[edit]

Since the advent of queer studies in universities, LGBT slang and argot has become a subject of academic research among linguistic anthropology scholars.[5]

Cultural impact[edit]

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.


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" (UK) and "tearoom" (US) were used to denote public toilets used for sex. By 1999, this terminology had fallen out of use to the point of being greatly unrecognisable by members of the LGBT community at large.[6]

United Kingdom[edit]

During the first seven decades of the 20th century, a specific form of Polari was developed by gay men and lesbians in urban centres with established LGBT communities.[7][8]

Although there are differences, modern gay slang has adopted many Polari words, as detailed in the table below:

Source: Fantabulosa: A Dictionary of Polari and Gay Slang[9]
Glossary of gay slang taken from Polari
Word Approximate meaning
basket the bulge of male genitals visible through clothing
bear a large, often hairy man
bumming the act of anal sex
chicken / fox / twink young man
cottaging having or looking for sex in a public toilet
cub a young bear
gym bunny / Muscle Mary person who works out merely for aesthetics
hada blow-job
kuda speaking
howdy touching another male/female's behind
uros anal sex
wolf a man who tends to fall evenly between a fox/twink and a bear/cub
zhoosh style
twink usually young or young-looking, bodily-hairless man

North America[edit]

The 1964 legislative report Homosexuality and Citizenship in Florida contains an extensive appendix documenting and defining the homosexual slang of the time.

Scruff launched a Gay Slang Dictionary app in January 2014.[10] It includes commonly used slang in the United States from the gay community. Some of these cross over with the British slang, and some are only American.

Source: Scruff - Gay Slang Dictionary[11]
Glossary of U.S. gay slang taken from Scruff
Word Approximate meaning
bear a large, often hairy man
bear chaser a man who pursues bears
bottom the receptive sexual partner
cub typically heavier, hairier, and younger gay man
daddy typically an older gay man
discreet gay man who is reserved, private, or secretive about his identity
kink non-standard sexual activity, fetish, or interest
NSA no strings attached; casual sex
otter thinner, hairier gay man
poz HIV positive person
top the inserting sexual partner
twink a small, often bodily-hairless guy

H. Max published a short book including gays language in the late 80s. It also includes commonly used slang terms in the United States from the gay community.

Source: Max, Gay(s) Language[12]
Glossary of U.S. gay slang taken from Max
Word Approximate meaning
angel food Air Force serviceman
artiste gay who excels at fellatio
ass blow to lick or suck anus as opposed to blow job
auntie older, often effeminate, gossipy gay
baby butch young boyish lesbian
balls testicles
bang, to active role in anal or vaginal intercourse
basket male genitalia
baths, the bathhouses frequented by gays for sexual encounters
bathsheba gay who frequents gay bathhouses
B/D bondage and discipline
beach bitch gay who frequents beaches and resoles for sexual encounters
bean queen non-Latin gay who seeks Latin males - from rice-and-beans in Latin cuisine
beat off to masturbate
beatmeat masturbation or ejaculated penis
beef gravy semen
beefcake masculine male
bent gay as opposed to straight
bilingual to lick or suck penis and anus
BJ blow job
black jack black penis
blind, to make see to fellate uncircumcised penis
blind cock uncircumcised penis
blinds foreskin
blinds, to draw the to fellate uncircumcised penis
blow job fellatio as opposed to ass blow
blueberry pie sailor
bone penis
bottom man passive partner in anal intercourse as opposed to top man
box female genitalia
boygul girlish youth
brown out to lick or suck anus
brown, to to perform anal intercourse
brownie queen gay who prefers passive role in anal intercourse
brush teeth, to to perform fellatio
bucket boy passive partner in anal intercourse
bugger, to to perform anal intercourse
bull dyke mannish lesbian as opposed to baby butch or dinky dyke
bung hole anus
buns buttocks
butch masculine appearance or behavior as opposed to femme, nelly or swish
butcher knife penis
buttplug sex toy designed to be inserted in rectum
cafeteria repeated fellatio in backroom or bathhouse
camp, to to act effeminate, bitchy
campy effeminate, bitchy
candy cane penis
casting couch seduction with promises of career advancement
catcher passive partner in anal intercourse as opposed to pitcher
cha-cha queen effeminate Latin gay
cheeks buttocks
cheese dried accumulation underneath unclean foreskin
chicken underage boy
chicken dinner to fellate underage boy
chicken hawk gay who preys on underage boys
chicken queen gay who seeks underage boys
chubby chaser gay who seeks obese males
circle jerk group multiple masturbation
clone San Francisco/New York Greenwich Village gay type with exaggerated macho behavior and appearance
closet, in the to deny one's homosexuality as opposed to come out
closet queen gay who hides his homosexuality
clusterfuck group gay sex
cock penis
cock ring pubic ring used to prolong erection
cocksucker one who practices fellatio, also gay male
cum semen
come out to admit one's homosexuality as opposed to in the closet
cum, to to ejaculate
comedrum condom
Copenhagen capon transsexual
cornhole, to to perform anal intercourse
cream semen
cruise, to to seek a casual gay sex encounter
cupcakes small, well-rounded buttocks
curtains foreskin
curtains, to draw the to fellate uncircumcised penis
cut circumcised

Glossary of U.S. lesbian slang taken from Brabaw Definition
100-footer Someone who looks so gay that you can tell they are from "100 feet away"
baby dyke A young or recently out lesbian
celesbian A celebrity lesbian
dykon A celebrity woman who is seen as an icon by queer women. May or may not be a lesbian herself.
gold star A lesbian who has only had sex with women
high femme A very feminine queer or lesbian woman
pillow princess A queer or lesbian woman who bottoms during sex but never tops
soft butch A queer or lesbian woman who leans more masculine, but also has feminine traits
stone butch A very masculine queer or lesbian woman

Source: 17 Lesbian Slang Terms Every Baby Gay Needs To Learn[13]


Although many slang words used in modern Japan are "loanwords" from American English, many native Japanese slang words remain in Japan's LGBT community such as the term "okoge", which serves the same purpose of the English slang word, "fag hag" – a "woman whose friends are mostly homosexual men".[2] Although the literal English translation of okoge is burnt rice that sticks to the bottom of a pot, it is a reference to the Japanese equivalent to "faggot", okama (御釜, お釜, or 御竈; pot).[14]

Historical slang[edit]

Wayne R. Dynes' Encyclopedia of Homosexuality offers a historical look at LGBT slang.[15]

Term Definition
buggery In England in the early 18th century, the term "buggery" had become a well-known signifier for "criminally unnatural" intercourse. While "criminally unnatural" could refer to a number of things, in this context it almost always was in reference to anal penetration.
camp "Camp" refers to a specific form of humor commonly associated with gay men. It is based on frivolity and spectacle.
cruising The earlier recorded use of the term "cruising" comes from ancient Rome. It is used to express the active, social search for one or more sexual partners.
dyke "Dyke" is a common slang word to refer to a more masculine lesbian. It was originally used as a slur, but after the Vietnam War in the 1970s, lesbians began to reclaim it.
faggot This term was first recorded in American in 1914, in a Portland, Oregon publication of criminal slang. It is a slur against gay men.
fairy The term "fairy" was a common slur in America during the period of 1925–1960. It signifies a stereotypical or "obvious" homosexual.
fruit "Fruit" is a slur against gay men. Its origins lie in the stereotypes of gay men as "softer" and "smelling good".
macho In Spanish, macho simply means "male". In the context of LGBT slang, it is a term for a more masculine, "tough guy" homosexual.
punk This is a less common use of the word "punk". Here, it refers to a smaller, younger gay man who, in prison settings, is forced into a submissive role and used for the older inmate's sexual pleasure.
queen A "queen" is a very effeminate male homosexual. More recently, the term has been used in compounds such as "drag queen" or "rice queen".
queer The word "queer" has long been a slur against homosexuals, transgender people, and anyone who does not fit into society's standards of gender and sexuality. It carries a heavy connotation of wrongness, otherness, or strangeness[15], but also one of rebellion against the norms.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Paul Baker (2002). Polari – The Lost Manguage of Gay Men. Routledge. p. 119. ISBN 9780203167045. Retrieved 17 January 2010.
  2. ^ a b c Long, Daniel: "Formation Processes of Some Japanese Gay Argot Terms", American Speech, Vol. 71, No. 2 (Summer, 1996), pp. 215–224. Duke University Press, 1996.
  3. ^ Ken Cage and Moyra Evans (2003). Gayle: The Language of Kinks and Queens: A History and Dictionary of Gay Language in South Africa. Jacana Media. p. 16. ISBN 9781919931494. Retrieved 17 January 2010.
  4. ^ Lena Hamaida (2007). "Subtitling Slang and Dialect" (PDF). EU High Level Scientific Conference. p. 5. Retrieved 17 January 2010.
  5. ^ Proschan, Frank: "Review: Recognizing Gay and Lesbian Speech", American Anthropologist, New Series, Vol. 99, No. 1 (Mar., 1997), pp. 164–166.
  6. ^ Leap, William, ed.: Public Sex/Gay Space, Columbia University Press, 1999. p. 61.
  7. ^ Paul Baker (2002). Polari – The Lost Language of Gay Men. Routledge. p. 1. Retrieved 17 January 2010.
  8. ^ Quinion, Michael (1996). "How bona to vada your eek!". WorldWideWords. Retrieved 4 April 2010.
  9. ^ Paul Baker (2002). Fantabulosa: The Dictionary of Polari and Gay Slang. Continuum. ISBN 9780826473431. Retrieved 17 January 2010.
  10. ^ "SCRUFF, Gay App, Launches 'Gay Slang Dictionary'". Huffington Post. 12 March 2014. Retrieved 24 March 2014.
  11. ^ "Scruff, Gay Slang Dictionary". Archived from the original on October 6, 2016.
  12. ^ Gay(s) Language: A Dic(k)tionary of Gay Slang. Banned Books. 1 January 1988. p. 50. ISBN 978-0-934411-15-8.
  13. ^ Brabaw, Kasandra. "17 Lesbian Slang Terms Every Baby Gay Needs To Learn". Refinery29. Retrieved 17 March 2019.
  14. ^ McLelland, Mark (2000). "Male Homosexuality and Popular Culture in Modern Japan". Intersections: Gender, History & Culture in the Asian Context (3). Retrieved 24 February 2007.
  15. ^ a b Encyclopedia of homosexuality. Volume II. Dynes, Wayne R., 1934-. London. ISBN 9781317368113. OCLC 953858681.

Further reading[edit]

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