gay (g) KEY
Middle English gai, lighthearted, brightly colored, from Old French, possibly of Germanic origin
The word gay is now standard in its use to refer to homosexuals, in large part because it is the term that most gay people prefer in referring to themselves. Gay is distinguished from homosexual primarily by the emphasis it places on the cultural and social aspects of homosexuality as opposed to sexual practice. Many writers reserve gay for males, but the word is also used to refer to both sexes; when the intended meaning is not clear in the context, the phrase gay and lesbian may be used. Like the other names of social groups derived from adjectives (for example, Black), gay may be regarded as offensive when used as a noun to refer to particular individuals, as in There were two gays on the panel; here phrasing such as gay members should be used instead. But there is no objection to the use of the noun in the plural to refer collectively either to gay men or to gay men and lesbians, so long as it is clear whether men alone or both men and women are being discussed. See Usage Note at homosexual.