[lez-bee-uh n]


of or relating to Lesbos.
(usually lowercase) of, relating to, or characteristic of female homosexuality.
(usually lowercase) erotic; sensual.


an inhabitant of Lesbos.
(usually lowercase) a female homosexual.

Origin of Lesbian

1595–1605; < Latin Lesbi(us) Lesbian (< Greek Lésbios, equivalent to Lésb(os) Lesbos + -ios adj. suffix) + -an; (defs 2, 5) alluding to the poet Sappho of Lesbos, whose verse deals largely with her emotional relationships with other women
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for lesbian

homosexual, homoerotic, homophile, Sapphic

Examples from the Web for lesbian

Contemporary Examples of lesbian

Historical Examples of lesbian

British Dictionary definitions for lesbian



a female homosexual


of or characteristic of lesbians
Derived Formslesbianism, noun

Word Origin for lesbian

C19: from the homosexuality attributed to Sappho



a native or inhabitant of Lesbos
the Aeolic dialect of Ancient Greek spoken in Lesbos


of or relating to Lesbos
of or relating to the poetry of Lesbos, esp that of Sappho
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

Word Origin and History for lesbian

1590s, "pertaining to the island of Lesbos," from Latin Lesbius, from Greek lesbios "of Lesbos," Greek island in northeastern Aegean Sea (the name originally may have meant "wooded"), home of Sappho, great lyric poet whose erotic and romantic verse embraced women as well as men, hence meaning "relating to homosexual relations between women" (1890; lesbianism in this sense is attested from 1870) and the noun, first recorded 1925. Before this, the principal figurative use (common in 17c.) was lesbian rule (c.1600) a mason's rule of lead, of a type used on Lesbos, which could be bent to fit the curves of a molding; hence, "pliant morality or judgment."

And this is the nature of the equitable, a correction of law where it is defective owing to its universality. ... For when the thing is indefinite the rule also is indefinite, like the leaden rule used in making the Lesbian moulding; the rule adapts itself to the shape of the stone and is not rigid, and so too the decree is adapted to the facts. [Aristotle, "Nicomachean Ethics"]

Cf. also tribadism.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

lesbian in Medicine




A woman whose sexual orientation is to other women.


Relating to or being a lesbian.
Related formslesbi•an•ism n.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

lesbian in Culture


A homosexual woman. (See also gay.)

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.