adjective, queer·er, queer·est.

verb (used with object)


  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 formsqueer·ly, adverbqueer·ness, noun

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.

Synonyms for queer

Antonyms for queer

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for queer

Contemporary Examples of queer

Historical Examples of queer

  • "Queer how nerves affect people," he said, as John and he left the stage.

    The Foolish Lovers

    St. John G. Ervine

  • "Queer he had energy enough to tell me that much," remarked Bart, as he moved off.

  • Queer sort of wheeze to say 'hyphen' in a chap's name as if it were a word, when it wasn't at all.

    Ruggles of Red Gap

    Harry Leon Wilson

  • "Queer enough about Cy, that's a fact," concurred Captain Dimick.

    Cy Whittaker's Place

    Joseph C. Lincoln

  • "Queer freak for a woman to live there all alone, anyhow," observed Jeb.

    Frank Merriwell's Cruise

    Burt L. Standish

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 (tr) informal

to spoil or thwart (esp in the phrase queer someone's pitch)
to put in a difficult or dangerous position
Derived Formsqueerish, adjectivequeerly, adverbqueerness, noun

Word Origin for queer

C16: perhaps from German quer oblique, ultimately from Old High German twērh


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
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 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