Glossary of Archaic Terms and Definitions



  • Back door, gentleman of the; Back door usher [early 19th c.]: pejorative slang for a man who has sex with men.
  • Back gammon player [early 19th c.]: pejorative slang for a man who has sex with men. It was likely derived as a pun on the game of backgammon, with back (rear) and gammon (the lower/hind part of a side of bacon) referring to anal sex. (Example: “Back Gammon Player. A sodomite.”)
  • Bisexual
    • [Current usage]: an individual whose sexual or romantic attraction is not exclusively to people of one particular gender.
    • [Early 20th c. – mid 20th c.]: The term bisexual was sometimes used to describe men or women who had sex with others of the same gender, but who were also married to someone of the opposite sex. These individuals may have been bisexual as we understand the term today, or they may have entered into marriages of convenience as a way of hiding their sexuality.
    • [Early 20th c.]: an individual who possesses or exhibits both male and female characteristics. The characteristics can be physical (Example: “…ladies whose faces were adorned with mustaches…”, “In extraordinary cases the mammæ in the male have been highly developed.”), or a combination of the physical and emotional (Example: “…a male soul and a female soul inhabiting the same brain and body.”).
  • Boston marriage [19th c. – early 20th c.]: the cohabitation of two  women. Due to the strict gender role strictures on women’s career and employment options, one or both women were typically wealthy, allowing the couple to live independently with financial support from a man. Some of the relationships were romantic; others were not. Boston marriages were so common at Wellesley College that they were sometimes called Wellesley marriages.


  • Catamite
    • [19th c.]: a male who is the passive or receiving partner in anal intercourse with another man. The catamite was often a pubescent juvenile, adolescent, or a younger man (see youth), but taking the passive role regardless of age could earn one the label of catamite. The passive “feminine” role meant that catamite was always a pejorative, but the derogatory nature of catamite was even more severe when applied to an older man.
    • [Ancient Greece and Rome]: a pubescent boy, adolescent, or young man who was in an intimate pederastic relationship with a young man. See pederast, pederasty.


  • Degenerate
    • [Current usage]: an immoral or corrupt person, typically used in reference to perceived sexual immorality, and very often used to refer to lesbians and gay men.
    • [19th c – early 20th c]: The Theory of Progressive Degeneracy, or Degeneracy Theory, was a 19th century theory that was based on the premise that certain social, economic, and racial classes were predisposed to neurological and mental illnesses, alcoholism, criminality, and immoral conduct due to bad heredity. This implied that certain groups (the poor, prostitutes, criminals, etc.,) were morally defective, and that these moral defects were genetic and would be passed down (or “de-generate”) to their offspring. This theory gave rise to the Eugenics and Social Hygiene movements at the turn of the century. Proposed solutions to this “de-generation” included regulating the spread of undesirable traits through legislation (via marriage and immigration laws) and through medical science (via legally-enforced sterilization.) Eugenics was eventually discredited when Germany’s Nazi regime fully embraced Degeneracy Theory, first as a key foundation for the mass euthanization of “defectives,” and later for the Holocaust itself. Following World War II, degenerate was shorn of its connection to Degeneracy Theory and took on the meaning that it has today.
  • Dioning [1864 – 1900s]: a heterosexual. A German word coined by lawyer and sexologist Karl Heinrich Ulrichs, the term did not gain wide acceptance in English. Ulrichs also coined Uraniaster to describe a heterosexual who, due to special circumstances (i.e., a lack of available women) consorts with men. See Uranian, Urning.



  • Fairy [1910s – 1930s]: an effeminate homosexual man. In 1926, The New York Age, an African-American newspaper in Harlem, reported on the annual Hamilton Lodge Masquerade Ball, where nearly half of those attending appeared to be “men of the class generally known as ‘fairies’,… in their gorgeous evening gowns, wigs, and powdered faces…” But one didn’t have to dress in drag in order to be a fairy. Fairies, even in masculine dress, were identified by their effeminate mannerisms or the rouge and powder on their faces. As the flapper girl became a recognizable symbol of the Roaring Twenties with her short dress, bobbed hair, and liberated sexual image, the fairy was a somewhat prominent symbol for a certain group of gay men. Popular songs of the era included, “Masculine Women, Feminine Men” and “Let’s All Be Fairies.” The fairy of the 1920s soon fed into what became known as the pansy craze, which lasted roughly from about 1928 to around 1933. Fairy, which had always had something of a sneering undertone, quickly became a stronger pejorative.
  • Fop, Foppish [thru mid-19th c.]: pejorative slang for a foolish man who is overly obsessed with his appearance and clothing. the Oxford English Dictionary notes the first use of fop with the meaning of “one who is foolishly attentive to and vain of his appearance, dress, or manners; a dandy, an exquisite” in 1672. Before then, fop meant simply a general fool. Because “foolish” obsessions with fashion were considered effeminate, fops were sometimes suspected as being in some way deficient in their masculinity.


  • Gamahuche [mid 19th c.]: to perform an act of oral sex.
  • Gay
    • [Current usage]: an individual (almost always a man) who is sexually or romantically attracted to persons of the same sex. In the 1990s, it was still somewhat common for lesbians to call themselves gay, but that has become extremely rare today. The LGBT initialism, in which L stands for lesbian and G stands for gay, suggests that the two are largely seen as separate identities.
    • [Thru 1960s]: joyful, carefree. Since the 1970s, this definition has been almost entirely supplanted by current usage.
    • [1920s – 1980s]: in addition to the standard definition of joyful and carefree, gay began to be used as a euphemism for men and women who were romantically or sexually attracted to others of the same sex. Gertrude Stein’s Miss Furr & Miss Skeene (1922) is believed to be the first published use of the word gay to refer to homosexual relationships. By the late 1930s, gay began to sneak into popular culture as a euphemism for homosexuality. By the 1950s, gay was shifting from euphemism to identity among homosexual men and women, although that shift was sometimes resisted by older generations. By the 1960s, younger generations had fully embraced gay as an identity (including women, although many of them either preferred lesbian or used gay and lesbian interchangeably). This embrace led order generations of homosexuals to equate gay with radicalism. Gore Vidal fought against its usage as an identity, and 1950s teen idol Tab Hunter, who died in 2018, expressed his discomfort with the word well into the final decade of his life.
    • [ Late 17th c. – 19th c.] While gay meant joyful or carefree, the “carefree” part sometimes carried undertones of being uninhibited by moral constraints. Therefore, a gay woman was a euphemism for a prostitute, a gay man a womanizer, and a gay house a brothel. Among men who had sex with other men, a gay boy was, by extension, a male prostitute.
  • Grundy, Mrs. : a figurative name for an extremely prim, priggish or prudish person who exercises a tyranny of Victorian propriety. Mrs. Grundy was originally an unseen neighbor in Thomas Morton’s 1798 play Speed the Plough, in which a fearful Dame Ashford constantly asked, “What would Mrs. Grundy say?”  When the Victorian era arose with its emphasis on moral decency, domesticity and propriety, many people recognized examples of hypocrisy and self-deception that came with it. For them, Mrs. Grundy became a personification of censorious authority and a figure of derision. (Example: “… the sadness which has made the race sober-minded, clean-lived, and fanatically moral, and which, in this latter connection, has culminated among the English in the Reformed Church and Mrs. Grundy.”) Mrs. Grundy largely disappeared from the North American lexicon by World War II, but she is still popularly referenced in Britain and other English-speaking countries.


  • Homophile [1950s – 1960s]: a homosexual person or group. Early post-war gay rights activists in western Europe and North American adopted the term homophile in place of homosexual. By emphasizing love (“-phile”), they hoped to provide a more acceptable alternative to a word that called attention to sex. This reflected the relative caution of those early activists. Their work led to the creation of the homophile movement, which saw its peak in the U.S. with the formation of the East Coast Homophile Organizations (ECHO) in 1963 and the North American Conference of Homophile Organizations (NACHO) in 1966. NACHO disbanded in 1970 following a rancorous conference where older leaders clashed with younger members radicalized in the wake of the Stonewall riots. The Berkeley underground newspaper Gay Sunshine declared the convention “the battle that ended the homophile movement.”
  • Homosexual
    • [Current usage]: a person (usually male) who is romantically or sexually attracted to persons of the same sex. While its usage as an adjective is not entirely pejorative, its use, especially as a noun, to describe people or same-sex relationships can be offensive because of its use by anti-gay extremists to denigrate gay people, couples, and relationships. Preferred terms are gay, lesbian, and bisexual.
    • [1868 – 1970s]: Same meaning as above. Homosexual was the most widely accepted term to describe lesbians and gay men until it was finally supplanted by gay and lesbian as separate identities. Homosexual derives from the German homosexualität, coined in 1868 by Austrian-born novelist Karl-Maria Kertbeny in an private letter to German sexologist Karl Heinrich Ulrichs. Kertbeny used the word publicly the following year in an anonymous pamphlet arguing against Prussia’s anti-sodomy law. In 1886, German psychiatrist Richard von Krafft-Ebing used the term in his landmark book Psychopathia Sexualis. The book’s 1892 translation and publication by Charles Gilbert Chaddock brought homosexual into the English language. Homosexual began to see wider mainstream usage in the 1920s where it referred to both men and women, although lesbian was already in wide usage by then. By the 1950s, the word homosexual by itself almost always referred to men unless it referred to men and women collectively; women by themselves were either homosexual women or lesbians. By the late 1960s, lesbian had gained such wide usage that homosexual women began sounding awkward. At around the same time, gay was coming into increased usage, supplanting homosexual among men.
    • [1900s – 1960s]: Homosexual was sometimes mistakenly applied to people who would today be seen as transgender. Because gender roles were so intrinsically bound up with gender and sexual identity, it was widely believed that homosexual men secretly wished they were women and that lesbians had a hidden desire to be men. Today, we can think of sexual identity (who we are attracted to) and gender identity (the sex we perceive and present ourselves to be) as two entirely different things. This is, however, a very recent understanding. Until the 1960s, gender defined everything: who one was, what one did, and who one loved. Because of that, homosexual was confusingly applied to gay and transgender people alike, including by gay and transgender people themselves.
    • [1900s – 1920s]: Among some very early writers, the adjective homosexual was used to refer to any single-sex general context — such as an all-girl’s boarding school or a summer camp for boys — without the suggestion of any sort of sexual or romantic activity. Instead, the authors sought to deploy the word’s most literal meaning (“same-sex”) without romantic or sexual implications.


  • Indorser [early 19th c., Britain]: pejorative slang for a man who took the active insertive role in anal sex with another man. (Example: “Indorser. A sodomite. To indorse with a cudgel; to drub or beat a man over the back with a stick, to lay cane upon Abel.”)
  • Indeterminate Sex
    • [Current usage]: When an infant is born with indeterminate sex, the genital organs are not visually male or female. The infant’s ambiguious genitalia may be incompletely developed or the baby may have characteristics of both sexes.
    • [1900s – 1930s]: a homosexual man or woman. This was an often derisive term used primarily to describe gay men, but also, occasionally, lesbians as well. The term arises from the the scorn directed specifically toward effeminate men or masculine woman, where the observer claimed he was unable to ascertain the individual’s “real” sex. See also Intermediate Sex, Third Sex.
  • Intermediate Sex [1908 – 1930s]: a homosexual man or woman. This was among the more polite terms used to describe gay men (and, occasionally, lesbians) at around the turn of the century. The term conjures an image of the person’s sex as being somewhere between the heteronormative male and female. The term was popularized by a book with the same title by philosopher and early gay rights activist Edward Carpenter. See also Indeterminate Sex, Third Sex.
  • Invert [1890s – 1940s]: a homosexual man or woman. This term was in widespread usage from the 1890s through the first third of the 20th century to describe someone whose sexual attractions and gender traits were inverted from the “normal” expressions of gender and sexual attraction. Homosexuality was called sexual inversion, which gained widespread usage following the English-language publication in 1897 of a book of the same title by Havelock Ellis and John Addington Symonds.




  • Lesbian [1870s – today]: a woman whose romantic or sexual attraction is to other women. Lesbian is derived from the name of the Greek Island Lesbos, home of the 6th-century BCE poet Sappho, who wrote about the beauty of women and her love for them. Lesbian appeared as an adjective as early as 1870 in writings to describe erotic relationships between women. It entered popular usage both as a noun and as an adjective at around the turn of the 20th century, when it was used interchangeably with invert, homosexual, and sapphist. It continued to be used interchangeably with homosexual women through the late 1950s. By the late 1960s, the practice of describing lesbians as homosexual or gay women had largely died out, leaving lesbian as the primary identity for women who were attracted to other women.


  • Madge culls [18th c. – 19th c, Britain]: a man who goes out and looks for (culls) other men (madges) to have sex with. Madge culls appears in a dictionary of slang published in 1811, with the definition being simply that of a sodomite. In  A view of Society of Manners in High and Low Life, published in 1781, George Parker described the Madge culls he found in London’s parks at twilight: “They are easily discovered by their signals, which are pretty nearly as follow: If one of them sits on a bench, he pats the backs of his hands; if you follow them, they put a white handkerchief thro’ the skirts of their coat, and wave it to and fro; but if they are met by you, their thumbs are stuck in the arm-pits of their waistcoats, and they play their fingers upon their breasts. By means of these signals they retire to satisfy a passion too horrible for description, too detestable for language…”
  • Marriage of Convenience: a marriage in between a homosexual man or lesbian and someone of the opposite sex. Marriages of convenience were very common up through the 1960s, both among gay men and lesbians, as a means of hiding their sexuality from society at large. Often (but not always), their spouses were unsuspecting.
  • Molly; Molly house [18th c. – 19th c, Britain]: A molly was a homosexual man, especially an effeminate man. A molly house was a meeting place for homosexual men. Molly houses were generally taverns, pubs, coffee houses, and even private rooms where men could socialize and potentially meet sexual partners. Although molly houses were usually not brothels, some made available rooms for sexual assignations. Molly was a nickname for Mary, but was associated with lower-class women, including prostitutes. It became a further pejorative when applied to effeminate men. Molly gave rise to the word mollycoddle which, as a noun, refers to an effeminate or ineffectual man or boy.


  • Nancy; Miss Nancy; Nance [19th c. thru today]: a fussy, effeminate man. By the turn of the 20th century, Nancy and its various forms referred more explicitly to gay men. It has always been a form of disparagement. (1838 example: “…Web and Power had a quarrel two days before the Western reached New York. It is said Webb made a regular ‘Miss Nancy’ of himself on the passage!” 1900 example: “When a foppish and effeminate youth is called ‘a regular Miss Nancy’ he is being compared with Miss Nance Oldfield, an English actress who died in London in 1730.” Note: This is an inaccurate etymology. The famous actress who died in 1730 was Anne Oldfield.)
  • Normal [thru mid-20th c.]: a man who was not effeminate and who did not take the passive (receptive) position when having sex with another man. Until about the time of World War II, men who sought other men for sex retained their normal (straight) status as long as they outwardly appeared to be masculine and took the active (insertive) role during sex. Such was the powerful rigidity of gender roles and their accompanying expectations that these normal men retained their straight reputations even among other gay men. Effeminate men — pansies, fairies, female impersonators, etc. — considered these men to be normal, even when their sexual activity was exclusively with other men. See also trade.


  • Out; Coming out
    • [Current usage]: To be out is to explicitly acknowledge to others one’s sexual or gender identity. The acknowledgement can be a general public one, or it can be a private acknowledgement with select individuals. When someone makes such an acknowledgement, it is often said that he or she has “come out of the closet,” or has emerged from a figurative hiding place.
    • [Thru the 1950s]: To come out meant to participate, for the first time, in a sexual act with someone of the same sex. When a person came out, it was said that his or her sexual partner “brought out” that person (“She brought me out.” “Charlie brought him out.”) Under this terminology, that first sexual experience was often spoken of as though it were some kind of an initiation into homosexual society. A public or private acknowledgment with friends, co-workers, or family members was not considered a part of coming out. Indeed, until sodomy laws began to be repealed in 1960s, most lesbians and gay men would have considered such a move as radical or dangerous.


  • Pansy [abt 1928 – 1933]: an effeminate man. Pansies generally wore male clothing, but they typically wore makeup (powder, rouge, lipstick), and often had bleached-blond hair. In the late 1920s, Pansy performers experienced a surge in popularity in nightclubs in New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and other major cities. These acts grew out of the “bohemian artistic enclaves” of Greenwich Village and Harlem. They adapted the image of the fairy but gave it more heft and sophistication. Several nightclubs in New York and Los Angeles found great success in hiring pansies as wisecracking masters of ceremonies; their quick and withering wit could put down the toughest of hecklers. Radio carried these night club acts live across the country, and pansies soon began appearing in film. The craze came to a fairly abrupt end in 1933, when Gene Malin, one of the most famous panzy performers, died in a car accident following a performance at the Ship Cafe in Venice, California. That same year, San Francisco police raided Ray Bourbon’s night club performance of his “Boys Will Be Girls” revue during a live radio broadcast. By then, New York police had already shut down the famous but short-lived Pansy Club in Times Square following a deadly shootout involving underworld figures. In 1934, the Hays Code,  which banned any portrayal of “sexual perversion” in films, went into full effect, and pansies disappeared from the big screen. By then, the craze had run its course; the public had grown tired of it and pansy quickly became a pejorative for gay men in general.
  • Party [early 20th c.]: gay slang: to have sex.
  • Pederast; Pederasty
    • [19th c.]: a pederast was a male who took the active or insertive role in anal intercourse with a catamite. While age discrepancies were typically associated with pederasty, there are examples of 19th century usages where a pederast was simply a man who had active or insertive sex with another man regardless of the relative ages between the two. Whenever men were brought up under charges of sodomy, it was sometimes important for the authorities to determine which partner played the active role, as the “passive” partner could sometimes claim to be a victim in order to escape the law’s harsh penalties. (In Britain, sodomy was punishable with death until 1861. South Carolina didn’t repeal its death penalty for sodomy until 1873.) During a time when there were very few words to describe same-sex relationships (homosexual didn’t enter the English language until 1892), pederast and pederasty were sometimes used synonymously with what we would call gay men and homosexuality today.
    • [Ancient Greece and Rome]: Pederasty, especially in ancient Greece, was a socially acknowledged and sanctioned intimate relationship between an adult male and a younger adolescent. In Greece, pederasty was idealized as a kind of an initiation or mentoring relationship, as long as the older partner always took the active, penetrating role. In Rome, pederasty was acceptable only when the relationship was inherently unequal: the Roman citizen retained his masculinity only when taking the active role, and where his sexual partner was a prostitute, slave, or non-Roman.
  • Peg House [1920s]: a brothel with male prostitutes.
  • Pervert; perversion [1890s – 1960s]: pejorative term for a homosexual man or woman, or anyone whose sexual inclinations or activity was outside of what was considered acceptable. The verb pervert means “to alter (something) from its original course, meaning, or state to a distortion or corruption of what was first intended.” A perversion is the resulting alteration. (In English law, the charge of “perverting the course of justice” is to take actions that would prevent the authorities from investigating a crime by, for example, destroying or altering evidence.) A pervert, as a noun, was originally used to describe someone who was a heretic, apostate, or a traitor for having “perverted” his theology or loyalties. In the 1890s, the noun began to be used to describe those with “perverted” morals generally. By the 1920s, it was used almost exclusively for those with “perverted” sexual desires or activities, including rapists, child molesters, and other sexual criminals. Because homosexuality was criminalized, gay men, lesbians and bisexuals were also considered perverts. With the rise of the Lavender Scare in the 1950s, pervert was used almost exclusively for homosexuals and child molesters, in line with the widespread view that the two were essentially synonymous.
  • Poof, Poofter [since 1890s; Britain, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa]: highly derogatory slang for a male homosexual, especially an effeminate man. It is considered especially pejorative in Australia, where organized poofter-bashing was a significant problem in Sydney’s King’s Cross district in the 1960s and 1970s.


  • Queer
    • [Current usage]: an umbrella term for a wide spectrum of gender and sexual identities. Since the late 1980s, members of Queer Nation and other LGBT activists began to reclaim the pejorative as a povocative alternative to the more assimilationist branches of the LGBT communities. Since then, queer has been increasingly embraced by wider, more mainstream elements of LGBT movements, especially among younger generations, many of whom have had no first-hand experience with having the word used against them in angry or physically threatening situations. However, this reclamation is still controversial among LGBT people, especially among those who associate it with radical political activism, and those for whom the word is still personally triggering due to past traumas and abuses. Feelings about the use of the word queer within the LGBT communities is further complicated by the fact that it is still used as a pejorative by those who are hostile to LGBT people.
    • [Late 19th c – 1990s]: Queer began to take on a connotation of sexual deviance, especially in reference to feminine men or men who were thought to have had sexual relationships with other men. It became more mainstream as a pejorative against gay men, especially those who were deemed “flamboyant.”
    • [Early 20th c.]: Some gay men claimed a queer identity to differentiate themselves from effeminate gay men (see fairy) and female impersonators. By calling themselves queer, they sought to their masculine image while simultaneously recognizing that they were nevertheless different in important ways from most men in broader society (see normal). This identity within the homosexual subculture declined in the 1930s.
    • [Thru the 1950s]: Queer originally meant “odd,” “peculiar,” or “eccentric,” and was used to denote something suspicious and worth further investigation. It could also mean that something’s “not quite right” (“You look queer. Is there something the matter?”). As a verb, it meant “to ruin” or “to spoil” a situation or agreement (“His unreasonable demands queered the deal.”)


  • Red tie; Red necktie [until the 1940s]: a signifier that the man wearing it is gay. Typically, for straight men, wearing a red necktie bore no special meaning. It was just another fashion choice. But a gay man in major urban centers like New York or Chicago might wear a red necktie while in certain neighborhoods or social gatherings as a subtle indicator that he is gay and open to finding other gay men for social or sexual interactions. Other gay men may see the red tie as an invitation to make other discrete comments or inquiries that the wearer would understand if he were gay, but a straight man would fail to recognize. While red neckties in and of themselves carried no particular stigma, the practice was known well enough that the phrase red tie became a subtle euphemism for male homosexuality. Variety made occasional references to “red tie jokes” or “red necktie acts” in the 1910s when reviewing touring Vaudeville companies.


  • Sapphic; Sapphist; Sapphism [1890s – 1920s]: lesbian (adj. and noun, respectively), lesbianism. The terms were named after the poet Sappho, who lived on the Greek Island of Lesbos at around 600 B.C.E. Because male citizens of Lesbos would properly be called Lesbians, some writers preferred the greater accuracy obtained by using words derived from Sappho’s name, since it was she who described her own love for women. For whatever reason, that logic didn’t win out, and lesbian, which had been in common usage since the turn of the century to describe homosexual women, had almost completely supplanted sapphic and sapphist by the 1930s.
  • Sodomite
    • [Current usage]: literally, a man who engages in anal sex with another man. Generally, it is a highly derogatory term referring to men who have sex with other men.
    • [Through 1920s]: a man who engages in sodomy. As the definition of sodomy changed thorough the ages (see below), the definition of sodomite changed accordingly. With sodomy being a criminal offense, sodomite has always had a pejorative connotation. The early sexology writings of Karl Heinrich Ulrichs (1864), Richard von Krafft-Ebing (1886) and Havelock Ellis (1892) avoided using the term sodomite due to its negative connotations, and used urning, homosexual, and invert respectively instead. Sodomite continued to appear in newspapers until about 1920, when other terms (some of which were similarly derogatory) began to appear in its place.
  • Sodomy
    • [Current usage]: anal sex. The act can be performed by one man with another man, or by a man with a woman.
    • [Through 1960s]: anal sex, or sex with an animal (bestiality). Due to the delicate sensitivities surrounding the topic, sodomy statutes addressed a crime that, often literally “dared not speak its name” (Example: “Whoever commits the abominable and detestable crime against nature, either with mankind or with a beast, …”) This vagueness often led courts to disagree on whether sodomy laws included oral sex. They also didn’t always agree on whether the laws included women (although some laws were worded to explicitly outlaw sexual relations between women). Public understanding of sodomy generally mirrored the shifting legal definitions. By the 1950s to the 1960s, it became more common for the general public to equate sodomy with sexual acts between men. And with the increased acceptability of oral sex among straight people (it had previously been seen as a “deviant” act), sodomy became increasingly associated specifically with anal sex.


  • Third Sex [1890s – 1930s]: a homosexual man or woman. This is among the more polite terms used to describe gay men (and, occasionally, lesbians) at around the turn of the century. The term describes a person’s sex as being something other than the two “normal” sexes of male and female. See also Indeterminate Sex, Indeterminate Sex.
  • Trade
    • [Current usage]: any young, sexually-attractive man, regardless of his sexuality, who is available for a casual sexual encounter with another man. Financial exchanges are not implied in current usage. An element of perceived danger remains a component of rough trade, which is often confusingly shortened to trade.
    • [1920s – 1970s]: a man who is straight (or pretends to be) and who has sex with another man. Trade was often a male prostitute or someone who otherwise accepted payment or gifts in exchange for sex, although such arrangements weren’t an essential feature of trade. The key point of trade was that he was traditionally masculine and working class — a construction worker, longshoreman, merchant marine — or military. He was seen as normal (straight or “straight-acting” in today’s parlance). And in keeping with that perception, trade typically assumed the active or insertive role while having sex with other men. Some gay men found it exciting to find a dangerous or thuggush man, and sought out rough trade at saloons, pool halls, the docks or in alleyways. Military trade, particularly sailors, was another notable subgenre. See also normal.
  • Tribade; Tribadism
    • [Current usage]: Tribadism is a lesbian sexual practice, also known as scissoring.
    • [1600s – 1900s]: a lesbian, lesbianism. Tribade appeared as early as 1601 in European text to refer to lesbians. It also referred to lesbian sexual practices in general. Victorians regarded tribadism as a lower-class phenomenon among prostitutes and criminals. By the turn of the 20th century, tribade was supplanted by sapphist, invert, lesbian, and homosexual.


  • Uranodioning [1864 – 1900s]: a person who is sexually or romantically attracted to someone of any gender; a bisexual as we understand the term today. A German word coined by lawyer and sexologist Karl Heinrich Ulrichs, urandodioning did not gain wide acceptance in English. See Uranian, Urning.
  • Uranian; Urning [1864 – 1920s]: a homosexual man. It was coined by German lawyer and sexologist Karl Heinrich Ulrichs in a series of five booklets published from 1864 to 1865 under the collective title Forschungen über das Räthsel der mannmännlichen Liebe (The Riddle of Man–Manly Love). Ulrichs used the German urning in his original texts. When his works were later translated into English, the word became uranian, although many English writers continued to use the original urning. Ulrichs further divided urnings into mannlings (effeminate males), weiblings (masculine homosexual men), and zwischen-urnings (pedophiles who preferred boys). An urning who choses to cohabit or marry a woman was called at virilisurt (a “virilized” urning). See also: Urinden, Dioning, Uranodioning.
  • Urinden [1864 – 1900s]: a lesbian. A German word coined by lawyer and sexologist Karl Heinrich Ulrichs,  urinden never really caught on in English except occasionally in medical textbooks. It was quickly replaced in English with sapphist and lesbian at about the turn of the twentieth century. See Uranian, Urning.



  • Windward passage [18th c – early 19th c., Britain]: pejorative slang for a man who has sex with other men. (Example: “Some say, that (Dr.) Walton was lately seen at a certain great Metropolis, at the sign of the naked Breech in Catamite-Alley; others with more Probability report, that the Windward Passage Doctor is set Sail for Italy.”)



  • Youth
    • [Current usage]: an individual under the age of eighteen or under the age of consent as established by law. A juvenile.
    • [Until the late 1950s]: Usage of the term youth was very elastic. Youth was not necessarily equivalent to juvenile, although juveniles were also called youths. Age of consent laws were haphazardly enforced (and enforced even less often where adolescent males were concerned) and they didn’t represent the bright red dividing lines between youths and adults in the public’s imagination that they do today. It was quite common for newspapers to describe a man in his early to mid-twenties as a youth, particularly when he was younger than other men mentioned in the article. It was almost never used for females of any age.