Words have their own etymologies or origins and since they are passed on from one generation to another, there are times when their meanings change depending on the context that the people who utter them refer to. One word in particular has seen a major change on how it is commonly understood today, and this is the word “gay.” 

The word “gay” first made its presence known as a surname to the French “Philippus de Gay” and the roots of this word is traced back to the old French word “gai” which means joyful, pleasant, happy, and agreeably charming. In the late 14th century, its spelling changed into “gay” and usually meant light-hearted, merry, full of joy, or carefree.

In some cases, “gay” was also used to describe something or someone which was beautiful and stately or splendid and lavishly dressed. In a 1630s literary work by Geoffrey Chaucer, the word gay first had its hint of being used with an immoral undertone. By the year 1890, this term had been bathed in promiscuity to such lengths that brothels were also called “gay houses.” The term also meant being addicted to pleasures and certain dissipations. Its original meaning of “carefree” became something which is now more to likes of being les conscious of the norms—being uninhibited.

In the 19thcentury, the word “gay” when used to describe a woman meant her being a prostitute while “gay” being used to describe a man meant he slept with a lot of women—contrary to how men now referred to as “gay” only sleep with men as well. The skewed meaning of the word has since then been associated to it, and more often than not, whenever an individual mentions it, the thought of immorality or unconventional sexual orientations are brought to mind. Come 1955, the definition of “gay” not only meant being happy or merry in dictionaries, but it also has the additional meaning of being used to refer to homosexual men.

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