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Gay slang or LGBT slang in linguistics refers to a form of English slang used predominantly among LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) people.

Differences and similarities to PolariEdit

Modern gay slang has origins in the English language. Polari was a cant or cryptolect used in the gay subculture in Britain. Polari derives from Italian languages, Mediterranean Lingua Franca, Yiddish and French. [1]

Another difference between gay slang and Polari is that gay slang has become descriptive of the overall experience of life in the gay community, whereas Polari includes names for common words that have no exclusive relation to the LGBT culture (e.g., "glossies" for "magazines").[1] Gay slang also coexists alongside regional slang and many gay men will combine them.

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[1]
Glossary of gay slang taken from Polari
Word Approximate meaning
basket the bulge of male genitals through clothes
bumming the act of gay sex
chicken young boy
cottaging having or looking for sex in a public toilet
zhoosh style

Cultural impactEdit

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. Other less well known terms include funguy : This is a flamboyant homosexual who endulges in any gay sex/fetish and will dress in gay attire; also linker Man : This is a gay male who dresses in gay attire which must include chains, normally he is leather clad. Both of these are normally found in gay bars and thus form part of gay scene.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 (Baker, 2002)


  • Baker, Paul (2002). Fantabulosa, a dictionary of Polari and gay slang. Continuum, 242 pages. ISBN 0826459617. 
  • Rodgers, Bruce (1972). The Queens' Vernacular : a gay lexicon. Straight Arrow Books, 265 pages. ISBN 0879320265. 

See alsoEdit

External linksEdit


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