[ kweer ]

adjective,queer·er, queer·est.
  1. strange or odd from a conventional viewpoint; unusually different; singular: The court has a queer notion of justice.

  1. of a questionable nature or character; suspicious; shady: Something queer about the language of the prospectus kept investors away.

  2. not feeling physically right or well; giddy, faint, or qualmish: If you feel queer, you should lie down for a bit.

  3. mentally unbalanced or deranged.

  4. Slang. bad, worthless, or counterfeit.

verb (used with object)
  1. to spoil; ruin.

  2. to put (a person) in a hopeless or disadvantageous situation as to success, favor, etc.

  1. to interpret, analyze, or reconstruct (a narrative) based on the perspectives of people whose experiences fall outside normative ideas of gender and sexuality, especially in academic research and criticism: This film queers the Western genre by introducing a transgender lead.Her pioneering research queered the portrayal of medical professionals by emphasizing the work of LGBTQ+ doctors.

  1. Often Disparaging and Offensive. (The noun “a queer” is often used with disparaging intent and considered offensive even among those who approve of the corresponding adjective “queer.” The plural “queers” is less likely to offend than the singular “a queer.”)

  2. Slang. counterfeit money.

Idioms about queer

  1. queer the pitch, British Informal. to spoil the chances of success.

Origin of queer

First recorded in 1500–10; perhaps from German quer “oblique, cross, adverse”

usage alert For queer

When referring to LGBT+ identities, the label queer can be offensive and painful or embraced and affirming—it all depends on the speaker’s identity, relationship to the subject, and the context of use. In-group vocabulary is not always appropriate for use by others, and it is best to refer to a person by whatever term they have told you they prefer.

usage note For queer

Historically, queer has meant “strange” in a way that departs from convention. Since the early 20th century, it has also 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. The term has more recently come to include any person whose sexuality or gender identity falls outside the heterosexual norm or the gender binary. A person identifying as queer can be gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, genderqueer, gender-fluid, etc., and the use of queer allows for the expression of LGBTQ community membership without requiring any specific label.
More broadly, within academia, “to queer” can even refer to the act of interpreting a text using any non-normative or marginalized perspective. This sense plays with the dual meaning of queer as referring to people whose genders and sexualities have been marginalized, and as referring to something that is unusual or unconventional. In this sense, introducing the perspectives of people of color or people with disabilities would also be considered queering a text in literary or cultural criticism.

synonym study For queer

1. See strange.

Other words for queer

Opposites for queer

Other words from queer

  • queer·ly, adverb
  • queer·ness, noun

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2024

How to use queer in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for queer


/ (kwɪə) /

  1. differing from the normal or usual in a way regarded as odd or strange

  2. suspicious, dubious, or shady

  1. faint, giddy, or queasy

  2. informal, taboo homosexual

  3. informal odd or unbalanced mentally; eccentric or slightly mad

  4. slang worthless or counterfeit

  1. informal, taboo a homosexual, usually a male

verb(tr) informal
  1. to spoil or thwart (esp in the phrase queer someone's pitch)

  2. to put in a difficult or dangerous position

Origin of queer

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

usage For queer

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

Derived forms of queer

  • queerish, adjective
  • queerly, adverb
  • queerness, noun

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