General English

  • noun a homosexual man


  • noun (a person who is) homosexual. Until the 19th century queer denoted odd or curious, as it still does in standard English. Its use as first a euphemism, then a slang synonym for homosexual arose between the world wars, probably first in the USA. Queer ultimately derives from quer, a German word meaning crooked or awry. In the mid-1980s gay activists began to use the term to refer to themselves, in keeping with the trend among ‘transgressive’ minorities to appropriate the language of their oppressors (as in the earlier case of nigger).

Origin & History of “queer”

Queer was probably borrowed from German quer ‘across, oblique’, hence ‘perverse’. this went back to a prehistoric Indo-European *twerk-, which also produced English thwart and Latin torquēre ‘twist’ (source of English torch, torture, etc).