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 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.[1][2]

History and context[edit]

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.[2][3][4] Since the advent of queer studies in universities, LGBT slang and argot has become a subject of academic research among linguistic anthropology scholars.[5]

The Butch and Femme society.

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.[1][6] 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.[7][8] SCRUFF launched a gay-slang dictionary app in 2014, which includes commonly used slang in the United States from the gay community.[9] Specialized dictionaries that record LGBT slang have been found to revolve heavily around sexual matters.[10]

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.[11]

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.[12]

English terms[edit]

Term Meaning Region References
100-footer an obviously gay or lesbian person (as if visible from 100 feet away) US [13]
ac/dc bisexual+ US [14]
ace short for someone who identifies on the asexual spectrum global [15]
aro short for someone who identifies on the aromantic spectrum global [16]
aroace short for someone who identifies as both aromantic and asexual global [16]
ace of spades someone who identifies as an aromantic asexual global [17]
ace of hearts someone who identifies as a romantic asexual global [17]
artiste a gay man who excels at fellatio US [18]
auntie an older, often effeminate and gossipy gay man US [18]
baby butch a young, boyish lesbian US [18]
baby dyke a young or recently out lesbian US [13]
baths bathhouses frequented by gay men for sexual encounters US [18]
bathsheba a gay man who frequents gay bathhouses US [18]
batty boy a slur for gay or effeminate man Jamaica [19][20]
beach bitch a gay man who frequents beaches and resorts for sexual encounters US [18]
bear a large, often hairy, gay man global [21][22]
bear chaser a man who pursues bears US [22]
beard a person used as a date, romantic partner, or spouse to conceal one's sexual orientation global [23]
bent gay, as opposed to straight US [18]
bicon an iconic bisexual+ individual US
bi-fi bisexual+ version of gaydar U.S.
boi a boyish lesbian UK [24]
bottom a passive male partner in anal intercourse; also used as a verb for the state of receiving sexual stimulation global [18]
breeder a heterosexual person, especially one with children global [25]
brownie queen a gay man who prefers a passive role in anal intercourse US [18]
bucket boy a passive male partner in anal intercourse US [18]
bull dyke a mannish lesbian, as opposed to a baby butch or dinky dyke US [18]
butch, stud a masculine lesbian global [18][26]
cafeteria repeated fellatio in a backroom or bathhouse US [18]
camp, campy effeminacy, effeminate global [18][18]
carpet muncher, rug muncher a lesbian global [27]
chubby chaser a man who seeks obese males US [18]
clone a San Francisco or New York Greenwich Village denizen with exaggerated macho behavior and appearance US [18]
closeted keeping one's sexuality a secret from others US [18]
cocksucker a person who practices fellatio, usually a gay male US [18]
come out (of the closet) to admit or publicly acknowledge oneself as non-heterosexual/non-cisgender US [18]
Copenhagen capon a transsexual person (in reference to castration) US [18]
cottage a public toilet UK
cottaging having or seeking anonymous gay sex in a public toilet UK [21]
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 [28][29][30]
cruising seeking a casual gay sex encounter (historically from ancient Rome) global [18][31]
cub a typically heavier, hairier, and younger gay man global [21][22]
daddy a typically older gay man US [22]
doe/stag a feminine bisexual woman
down-low homosexual or bisexual activity, kept secret, by men who have sex with men US (African American) [32][33][34][35]
dyke a masculine lesbian; originally a slur, reclaimed in the 1970s global [31]
dykon a celebrity woman who is seen as an icon by lesbians; may or may not be a lesbian herself US [13]
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 [36]
en femme, en homme the act of wearing clothes stereotypically of the opposite sex global [37]
fag, faggot a slur against gay men and some transgender women (first recorded in a Portland, Oregon, publication in 1914) global [31]
fag hag a woman who associates mostly or exclusively with gay and bisexual men US [38]
fairy a stereotypically gay man; originally a slur, reclaimed in the 1960s global [31]
femme a feminine homosexual US [13]
fish a drag queen who is effeminate enough to pass as a cis woman
flamer an effeminate gay man global [39]
friend of Dorothy a gay man US [40]
fruit a slur against gay men; originally a stereotype of gay men as "softer" and "smelling good" global [31]
fudgepacker a gay man; considered a slur global [41]
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 [42]
gold star a gay or lesbian who has only had sexual coital contact with a member of the same gender (in reference to a military award) US [13]
heteroflexible to be mostly heterosexual global [43]
homoflexible to be mostly gay global
horatian a bisexual male
lesbian until graduation (LUG) a woman who experiments with bisexual or homosexual activity during school only global [44]
lipstick lesbian an effeminate lesbian global [45]
muff-diver a lesbian global [46][47]
otter a thinner, hairier gay man US [22]
packing the act of wearing padding or a phallic object to present the appearance of a penis global [48]
passing the act of being perceived by others as one's preferred gender identity global [49]
pillow princess a lesbian who prefers to receive sexual stimulation (to bottom) US [13]
poz a usually gay, HIV-positive person US [22]
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 [31]
queen an effeminate gay man; commonly used in compounds such as "drag queen" or "rice queen" global [31]
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 [31]
soft butch, stem, stemme an androgynous lesbian, in between femme and butch US [13]
stone butch a very masculine lesbian, or a butch lesbian who does not receive touch during intercourse, only giving US [13]
swish effeminate or effeminacy US [50][51]
terf "trans-exclusionary radical feminist", a person opposed to trans persons or issues; considered a slur by its targets global [52][53][54][55][56][57]
tomcat masculine bisexual woman
top the dominant or inserting sexual partner, usually in a homosexual relation or activity global [22]
twink a small or young-looking, bodily hairless man global [21][22][21]
U-Haul lesbian a lesbian who quickly moves to cohabitation US [58]
unicorn a bisexual person who prefers to hook up with opposite sex couples US
verse, 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 [21]

See also much longer LGBT Wiktionary index.

Other languages[edit]

African languages[edit]

Gayle (or Gail) is a gay argot or cant slang used primarily by English- and Afrikaans-speakers in urban South Africa. It is similar in some respects to Polari in the United Kingdom, from which some of its lexical items have been borrowed.[59][60][61]

IsiNgqumo (or IsiGqumo) is an argot used by gays and lesbians of South Africa and Zimbabwe who speak Bantu languages.[62] IsiNgqumo developed during the 1980s.[63][61] It has not been as thoroughly researched or documented as Gayle.[59]


Bahasa Binan (or bahasa Béncong) is a distinctive Indonesian speech variety originating from the gay community. It has several regular patterns of word formation, well-documented in both speech and writing.[64]


Although many slang words used in modern Japan are loanwords from American English, many native Japanese slang words remain in Japan's LGBT community.

Term Meaning References
bian (ビアン), rezu (レズ) lesbian [65]
dōseiaisha (同性愛者, literally "same-sex-love person") a homosexual person [65]
gei (ゲイ) gay [65]
homo (ホモ) homosexual [65]
homosekusharu (ホモセクシャル) homosexual [65]
okama (お釜, literally "pot") a gay man [65]
onabe (お鍋, literally "pan") a lesbian [65]
rezubian (レズビアン) lesbian [65]
ryoutoutsukai (両刀使い, literally "two-sword fencer; expert in two fields; person who likes alcohol and sweets equally well") a bisexual [1]


See also Glossary of Tagalog LGBT terms

Swardspeak (also known as "gayspeak"[66] or "gay lingo") is an argot or cant slang derived from Taglish (Tagalog–English code-switching) and used by LGBT people in the Philippines.[67] It deliberately transforms or creates words that resemble words from other languages, particularly English, Japanese, Chinese, Spanish, Portuguese, French, and German. It is colorful, witty, and humorous, with vocabularies derived from popular culture and regional variations.[68]


Term Meaning References
kathoey (Thai: กะเทย; RTGSKathoei Thai pronunciation: [kàtʰɤːj]) a trans woman or effeminate gay man [69]
phuying (Thai: ผู้หญิง) a trans woman [69]


Lubunca has been used by the LGBT community in Turkey since the Ottoman era.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Baker, Paul (2002). Polari – The Lost Language of Gay Men. Routledge. p. 1. ISBN 9780203167045. Retrieved 17 January 2010.
  2. ^ a b Long, Daniel (1996). Formation Processes of Some Japanese Gay Argot Terms. 71. Duke University Press. pp. 215–224.
  3. ^ Cage, Ken; Evans, Moyra (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. ^ Hamaida, Lena (2007). "Subtitling Slang and Dialect" (PDF). EU High Level Scientific Conference. p. 5. Archived from the original (PDF) on 1 January 2011. Retrieved 17 January 2010.
  5. ^ Proschan, Frank (1997). "Review: Recognizing Gay and Lesbian Speech". American Anthropologist. Wiley. 99 (1): 164–166. doi:10.1525/aa.1997.99.1.164. JSTOR 682150.
  6. ^ Quinion, Michael (1996). "How Bona to Vada Your Eek!". World Wide Words. Archived from the original on 7 September 2019. Retrieved 4 April 2010.
  7. ^ "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.
  8. ^ Howard, John (1997). Carryin' on in the Lesbian and Gay South. NYU Press. p. 132. ISBN 978-0-8147-3560-2.
  9. ^ "SCRUFF, Gay App, Launches 'Gay Slang Dictionary'". Huffington Post. 12 March 2014. Retrieved 24 March 2014.
  10. ^ Jacobs, Greg (1996). "Lesbian and Gay Male Language Use: A Critical Review of the Literature". American Speech. 71 (1): 49–71. doi:10.2307/455469. JSTOR 455469.
  11. ^ Leap, William (1999). Public Sex/Gay Space. Columbia University Press. p. 61.
  12. ^ Lumby, Malcolm E. (1976). "Code Switching and Sexual Orientation: A Test of Bernstein's Sociolinguistic Theory". Journal of Homosexuality. 1 (4): 383–399. doi:10.1300/j082v01n04_03. PMID 1018102.
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h Brabaw, Kasandra. "17 Lesbian Slang Terms Every Baby Gay Needs To Learn". Refinery29. Retrieved 17 March 2019.
  14. ^ Castleman, Michael (March 15, 2016). "The Continuing Controversy Over Bisexuality". Psychology Today. Retrieved September 8, 2020.
  15. ^ James Besanvalle (31 July 2018). "Here's a handy way to tell if someone you meet is asexual". Gay Star News. Retrieved 18 January 2020.
  16. ^ a b Sophia Mitrokostas (25 July 2018). "7 things you should know about identifying as aromantic — or not being romantically attracted to others". Insider. Retrieved 18 January 2020.
  17. ^ a b Julie Sondra Decker (2015). The Invisible Orientation: An Introduction to Asexuality. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 9781510700642. Retrieved 18 January 2020.[page needed]
  18. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v Max, H. (1988). Gay(s) Language: A Dic(k)tionary of Gay Slang. Banned Books. p. 50. ISBN 978-0-934411-15-8.
  19. ^ Scott, Julia (May 22, 2015). "The Lonely Fight Against Belize's Antigay Laws". The New York Times. Retrieved October 24, 2016.
  20. ^ Cayetano, Isani (April 9, 2014). "Transgender woman is stoned and beaten by an angry mob". News 5. Belize. Retrieved October 24, 2016.
  21. ^ a b c d e f Baker, Paul (2002). Fantabulosa: The Dictionary of Polari and Gay Slang. Continuum. ISBN 9780826473431. Retrieved 17 January 2010.
  22. ^ a b c d e f g h "Scruff, Gay Slang Dictionary". Archived from the original on October 6, 2016. Retrieved March 24, 2014.
  23. ^ Green, Jonathon (2005). Cassell's Dictionary of Slang. p. 83. ISBN 9780304366361.
  24. ^ "Definition of 'boi'". Collins English Dictionary. Retrieved 22 April 2019. in British ... a lesbian who adopts a boyish appearance or manner
  25. ^ Liu, Ling (26 July 2006). "Provincetown Straights Complain". SFGate. Archived from the original on 4 March 2007. Retrieved 21 March 2007.
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  27. ^ Rader, Walter. "Definition of carpet muncher". The Online Slang Dictionary. Retrieved 15 April 2019.
  28. ^ Brighter, Cassie (23 January 2019). "The Misunderstood Premise of the Cotton Ceiling". Curve. Archived from the original on 7 November 2019. Retrieved 15 April 2019.
  29. ^ 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.
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  33. ^ 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.
  34. ^ Mutua, Athena (28 September 2006). Progressive Black Masculinities. Routledge. p. 169. ISBN 978-0-415-97687-9. Retrieved 18 December 2009.
  35. ^ Bennett, Jessica (19 May 2008). "Outing Hip-Hop". Newsweek. Retrieved 19 December 2009.
  36. ^ "enby - Wiktionary". Retrieved 2019-06-16.
  37. ^ Boyd, Helen (2004). My Husband Betty: Love, Sex and Life with a Cross-Dresser. Sdal Press. p. 64. ISBN 978-1560255154.
  38. ^ 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.
  39. ^ "Definition of flamer". The Online Slang Dictionary. Retrieved 28 February 2015.
  40. ^ 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.
  41. ^ Dalzell, Tom; Victor, Terry, eds. (2013). The New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English. Routledge. p. 937. ISBN 9781317372523.
  42. ^ "The Gaysian".
  43. ^ Thompson, E.M.; Morgan, E.M. (2008). ""Mostly straight" young women: Variations in sexual behavior and identity development". Developmental Psychology. 44 (1): 15–21. doi:10.1037/0012-1649.44.1.15. PMID 18194001. S2CID 14336659.
  44. ^ Rimer, Sara (June 5, 1993). "Campus Lesbians Step Into Unfamiliar Light". The New York Times.
  45. ^ Roshan das Nair, Catherine Butler (2012). Intersectionality, Sexuality and Psychological Therapies: Working with Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Diversity. John Wiley & Sons. p. 49. ISBN 978-1119967439. Retrieved April 5, 2015.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  46. ^ 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.
  47. ^ Dalzell, Tom, ed. (2018). The Routledge Dictionary of Modern American Slang and Unconventional English. Routledge. p. 2013. ISBN 978-1-138-77965-5.
  48. ^ 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.
  49. ^ Urquhart, Evan (2017-03-30). "Why Is "Passing" Such a Controversial Subject for Trans People?". Slate Magazine. Retrieved 2019-04-13.
  50. ^ "swish definition, meaning". Cambridge Dictionaries Online. Retrieved 20 February 2015. 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
  51. ^ "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.
  52. ^ 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.
  53. ^ 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.
  54. ^ 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…
  55. ^ 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.'
  56. ^ 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.
  57. ^ 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.
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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]