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History of the Word Gay Essay

  • Submitted by: SarahManns
  • on September 18, 2012
  • Category: English
  • Length: 1,097 words

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Below is an essay on "History of the Word Gay" from Anti Essays, your source for research papers, essays, and term paper examples.

Gay is a term most frequently known as meaning "homosexual" or in the phrase “that’s gay” to describe anything in a negative way, but this term is also commonly known to have meant "happy" or "cheerful". The understanding of how or why this word has changed so drastically is, in fact, something most people don't know. It is a misconception that the word derived into the definition of homosexual because these people are "happy" and therefore "gay". By looking at the etymology of this word it is easy to see how it has taken this form and how the phrase of “that’s gay” has come to be. The word itself has not changed much going from Old High German gahi to Anglo-Norman gai or gaye and Old French gai. Although the spelling is still similar, the definition has gone through a series of ameliorations and pejorations through history to make it what it is today.
            The first meaning of the word comes as early as 1325 when it is used "as a conventional epithet of praise for a woman" (Entry 1a). Other meanings remain positive around this time such as "Bright or lively-looking, esp. in colour; brilliant, showy" (Entry 2a).   The way the term gay is used here is to describe either the looks of a person or of clothing or color.   This was used this way at the earliest in 1375 but was mainly used during the 15th and 16th centuries. One of the more recent definitions of the word that is still well known today originates in 1400. This definition being "light-hearted, carefree; manifesting, characterized by, or disposed to joy and mirth; exuberantly cheerful" (Entry 3a). From this definition in 1400 the term generalizes to not only being able to describe a woman or appearance, but to be able to describe anyone.
            In 1405 the word makes its first pejoration. An adjective being used to positively praise a woman, person, or garment comes up to mean "lewd and lascivious" (Entry 4a). Such a drastic change in meaning may seem outrageous, but since this meaning only...

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History of the Word Gay. Anti Essays. Retrieved December 13, 2018, from the World Wide Web: http://parimatch-stavka7.com/free-essays/History-Of-The-Word-Gay-310168.html


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