dike

1

or dyke

[ dahyk ]
/ daɪk /

noun

verb (used with object), diked, dik·ing.

to furnish or drain with a dike.
to enclose, restrain, or protect by a dike: to dike a tract of land.

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Origin of dike

1
before 900; Middle English dik(e), Old English dīc < Old Norse dīki; akin to ditch

OTHER WORDS FROM dike

dik·er, nounun·diked, adjective

Definition for dike (2 of 3)

dike2
[ dahyk ]
/ daɪk /

noun Slang: Disparaging and Offensive.

OTHER WORDS FROM dike

dik·ey, adjective, dik·i·er, dik·i·est.

Definition for dike (3 of 3)

dyke2

or dike

[ dahyk ]
/ daɪk /

noun Slang: Disparaging and Offensive.

a contemptuous term used to refer to a lesbian.

Origin of dyke

2
1940–45; earlier in form bulldike (with a variant bulldagger); of obscure origin; claimed to be a shortening of morphodyke (variant of morphodite, a reshaping of hermaphrodite), though morphodyke is more likely a blend of morphodite and a pre-existing dyke; other hypothesized connections, such as with diked out or dike “ditch,” are dubious on semantic grounds

usage note for dyke

The terms dyke and bull dyke are used with disparaging intent and are perceived as insulting. However, they have been adopted as positive terms of self-reference by young or radical lesbians and in the academic community. In the mainstream homosexual community, gay and lesbian remain the terms of choice.

OTHER WORDS FROM dyke

dyk·ey, adjective, dyk·i·er, dyk·i·est.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2020

ABOUT THIS WORD

What else does dike mean?

Dike is an extremely offensive slur for a lesbian. It has been reappropriated by some in the LGBTQ community as a label of pride and solidarity.

What are some other forms of dike?

dyke

Where does dike come from?

The origins of the term dike to mean “lesbian” are unclear. Its predecessor appears to be bull-dyke, recorded in the 1890s for a “masculine lesbian.” The bull, here, may indicate a manliness, while dyke may ultimately be a corruption of hermaphrodite.

Dike and dyke, as in a “ditch,” were slang for “vulva” in the late 1800s. English professor Susan Krantz has argued dike is a corruption of dick. She also connects bull-dyke to bull (“lies”), making bull-dyke a kind of fake man.

Dyke itself is seen by 1930, commonly spelled dike, and it later became a verb for “to have lesbian sex” or “be a lesbian.” In the 1960s, the modifier dikey appeared.

Dike is a homophobic slur, but, as is true of many slurs in marginalized groups, the lesbian community reclaimed it in the 1970s, notably in the 1971 poem “The Psychoanalysis of Edward the Dyke” by feminist Judy Grahn. Some lesbians took on the label dike as a show of pride and solidarity.

In 1993, the first Dyke March was held throughout the U.S. and Canada. The march was organized as part of a larger national movement for LGBTQ rights. Dyke marches traditionally occur the night or day before larger Pride parades to ensure visibility for queer women.

In December 2005, the lesbian motorcycle club Dykes on Bikes won a case with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to trademark its name after being initially denied on the grounds that it was offensive, which shows how effectively a part of the lesbian community reappropriated the term.

How is dike used in real life?

Dike, like vulgar words, depends on who is using it and how. For some members of the LGBTQ community, calling yourself (or someone else) a dike is a matter of pride and identity. That said, some lesbians still find dike very offensive, given the history of the term.

Just because dike has been reclaimed by some in the LGBTQ community, that doesn’t mean people outside of it don’t still use dike as a slur for lesbians or masculine-seeming women. Openly gay Scottish politician Mhairi Black, for instance, she has described many homophobic messages calling her dyke and other anti-lesbian slurs.

More examples of dike:

“On Saturday, thousands of queer women and dyke-identified trans and nonbinary folks marched down Fifth Avenue in New York to demonstrate to the world exactly what a dykeocracy looks like.”

—Mary Emily O’Hara, Them, June 2018

Example sentences from the Web for dike

British Dictionary definitions for dike (1 of 4)

dike
/ (daɪk) /

noun, verb

a variant spelling of dyke 1

British Dictionary definitions for dike (2 of 4)

Dyke
/ (dɑɪk) /

noun

Greg (ory). born 1947, British television executive; director-general of the BBC (2000–04)

British Dictionary definitions for dike (3 of 4)

dyke1

dike

/ (daɪk) /

noun

verb

civil engineering an embankment or wall built to confine a river to a particular course
(tr) to protect, enclose, or drain (land) with a dyke

Word Origin for dyke

C13: modification of Old English dic ditch; compare Old Norse dīki ditch

British Dictionary definitions for dike (4 of 4)

dyke2

dike

/ (daɪk) /

noun

slang a lesbian

Word Origin for dyke

C20: of unknown origin
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

Scientific definitions for dike

dike
[ dīk ]

A body of igneous rock that cuts across the structure of adjoining rock, usually as a result of the intrusion of magma. Dikes are often of a different composition from the rock they cut across. They are usually on the order of centimeters to meters across and up to tens of kilometers long. See illustration at batholith.
An embankment of earth and rock built to prevent floods or to hold irrigation water in for agricultural purposes.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.