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[kweer] /kwɪər/
Usage alert
Since the early 20th century, queer has had the meaning “gay or lesbian,” and for much of the time has been used with disparaging intent and perceived as insulting. Since the 1980s, queer has increasingly been adopted especially among younger members of the gay and lesbian community as a positive term of self-reference. However, the term is not universally accepted within the LGBT community, and might still be viewed by some as degrading. Queer is also a term used by activists and academics: queer politics; scholars of queer literature. And the term has more recently come to include any person whose sexuality or gender identity falls outside the heterosexual mainstream or the gender binary. A person identifying as queer can be gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, gender-fluid, etc., but the use of queer avoids any specific label.
adjective, queerer, queerest.
strange or odd from a conventional viewpoint; unusually different; singular:
a queer notion of justice.
of a questionable nature or character; suspicious; shady:
Something queer about the language of the prospectus kept investors away.
not feeling physically right or well; giddy, faint, or qualmish:
to feel queer.
mentally unbalanced or deranged.
  1. Usually Disparaging and Offensive. (of a person) gay or lesbian.
  2. noting or relating to a sexual orientation or gender identity that falls outside the heterosexual mainstream or the gender binary:
    queer subcultures.
Slang. bad, worthless, or counterfeit.
verb (used with object)
to spoil; ruin.
to put (a person) in a hopeless or disadvantageous situation as to success, favor, etc.
to jeopardize.
  1. Disparaging and Offensive. a term used to refer to a a person who is gay or lesbian.
  2. a person whose sexual orientation or gender identity falls outside the heterosexual mainstream or the gender binary.
Slang. counterfeit money.
queer the pitch, British Informal. to spoil the chances of success.
Origin of queer
1500-10; perhaps < German quer oblique, cross, adverse
Related forms
queerly, adverb
queerness, noun
1. unconventional, curious, freakish, eccentric, weird. See strange.
1. ordinary. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2016.
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British Dictionary definitions for queer


differing from the normal or usual in a way regarded as odd or strange
suspicious, dubious, or shady
faint, giddy, or queasy
(informal, taboo) homosexual
(informal) odd or unbalanced mentally; eccentric or slightly mad
(slang) worthless or counterfeit
(informal, taboo) a homosexual, usually a male
verb (transitive) (informal)
to spoil or thwart (esp in the phrase queer someone's pitch)
to put in a difficult or dangerous position
Derived Forms
queerish, adjective
queerly, adverb
queerness, noun
Usage note
Although the term queer meaning homosexual is still considered highly offensive when used by non-homosexuals, it is often used by homosexuals themselves as a positive term, as in queer politics, queer cinema
Word Origin
C16: perhaps from German quer oblique, ultimately from Old High German twērh
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for queer

c.1500, "strange, peculiar, eccentric," from Scottish, perhaps from Low German (Brunswick dialect) queer "oblique, off-center," related to German quer "oblique, perverse, odd," from Old High German twerh "oblique," from PIE root *terkw- "to turn, twist, wind" (see thwart (adv.)).

Sense of "homosexual" first recorded 1922; the noun in this sense is 1935, from the adjective. Related: Queerly. Queer studies as an academic discipline attested from 1994.


"to spoil, ruin," 1812, from queer (adj.). Related: Queered; queering. Earlier it meant "to puzzle, ridicule, cheat" (1790). To queer the pitch (1846) is in reference to the patter of an itinerant tradesman or showman (see pitch (n.1)).

These wanderers, and those who are still seen occasionally in the back streets of the metropolis, are said to 'go a-pitching ;' the spot they select for their performance is their 'pitch,' and any interruption of their feats, such as an accident, or the interference of a policeman, is said to 'queer the pitch,'--in other words, to spoil it. [Thomas Frost, "Circus Life and Circus Celebrities," London, 1875]

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for queer



  1. Counterfeit (1740+)
  2. Homosexual; camp, gay •In the early 1990s queer was adopted as a nonpejorative designation by some homosexuals, in the spirit of ''gay pride'': Some girls said that I was queer (1922+)


  1. (also the queer)Counterfeit money: eagle-eyed concessionaires always on the lookout for the queer (Underworld 1900s+); (1812+)
  2. (also queerie): a lot of queeries in the State Department (1932+)


To spoil; ruin; goof up: Food is what queered the party (late 1700s+ British); (1812+)

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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