Queer Meaning: Here’s What It Means and How To Use It

The word queer is an important word to understand today. Read on to learn queer’s meaning and how to interpret it in the proper contexts!

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The word queer is one of the most essential words in the modern world. Over the past few decades, it has massively increased in relevance in contemporary culture, society, and gender expression. However, it is a label and term that is often misunderstood. This is what the word wueer means, how to use it in the most accurate way, and whether its usage is advisable in the modern world. 

What Does Queer Mean?

Fundamentally, the word queer is an umbrella term used to describe people within the LGBTQ community who have gender identities or sexual orientations that do not correspond to traditional ideas of gender or sexuality. It is typically used as an adjective. 

Due to the broad-reaching nature of the word, it incorporates people with a wide array of different gender and sexual preferences. These includes but is not limited to people who are: 

  • Bisexual
  • Non-Binary
  • Asexual
  • Intersex
  • Gender-fluid
  • Transgender
  • Pansexual
  • Genderqueer

Most people who do not identify as straight and cisgender will typically be grouped into the queer community. 

Where Did the Word Queer Originate?

The word queer has roots in the Old High German quer, which meant oblique, or twist. As the word went through assimilation into the English language and dictionaries, it acquired the meaning of being strange, odd, or out of the ordinary. 

This definition was associated with the word until the late 1980s, when it began to describe people whose gender and sexual identities did not conform to straight and cisgender sexual attraction and identities. 

As the world slowly became more progressive and the LGBT community became more prominent, they began using the term queer to describe themselves. However, it was initially used as a slur against LGBT people. 

Still, as time went on, the queer movement incorporated it as part of their identity. While it still can have many negative connotations, the word’s reclamation has generally made it much more appropriate in the world today. 

What Is Queer Theory?

Queer theory has become known as a specific branch of critical theory that focuses mainly on the sexuality and identity of queer people. It encompasses any identity that can be defined as non-cisgender and non-heterosexual. Over the past few decades, many scholars and activists have put effort into understanding and helping people who don’t identify with (outdated) societal norms of gender and sexuality. 

Throughout history, there have been many commonly understood words for homosexual, bisexual, or straight people. However, as time went on and people’s understanding of gender and sexuality became much more open, scholars started to associate many other identity categories underneath the term queer. 

As the word queer underwent reclamation, it started to be used to describe people who weren’t solely attracted to members of their same sex. Giving these people the acceptance and recognition they desired with a word was very important for a large part of the LGBTQ community that didn’t clearly identify with any specific identity that already existed. 

Is the Word Queer Offensive?

For a long time, the word queer was used as offensive slang for people who didn’t conform to societal norms in gender and sexuality. It was a word that had a lot of discrimination and hate associated with it, which can still carry over into its use today. Uses of the word were almost always used with a negative connotation by people were transphobia, biphobia, or homophobia. 

However, during the 1990s and 2000s, the word queer was reclaimed by the LGBTQ community. Instead of being used as a derogatory term, it was turned into a label that allowed people who didn’t conform to any traditional identities to still feel like they had a place and identity within the community. 

For people questioning their own identity, it is an umbrella term to help communicate that they aren’t in one specific place but are still positive that they don’t fall into a traditional sexual or gender identity.

The term queer has enabled intersex people, pansexual people, aromantic people, non-binary people, and more to have an umbrella underneath which they can fall. Explaining the details of one’s identity can often be confusing and laborious, and having a specific term makes life easier for these people. 

Some people still find the word queer derogatory and offensive. It often depends on personal experiences with the word. It is generally best to ask someone’s opinions before referring to them as queer. Respecting people’s preferences is incredibly important. It can make communication between people much more effective and respectful. 

Does Queer Have the Same Meaning as LGBTQ?

The acronym LGBTQ stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer. By that definition, queer is a part of the LGBTQ community. This is because queer is used to notate people who don’t conform to labeled expressions of gender identity and sexuality. While the word and identity queer can refer to similar concepts, it typically means different things to different people. 

However, in everyday discussion, queer can sometimes be used interchangeably with LGBTQ. While this isn’t technically accurate, it still effectively describes and communicates that those represented do not conform to standard heterosexual and cisgender norms. 

At any rate, the words queer and LGBTQ are fundamentally different but may still sometimes be used interchangeably.

It is important to be mindful when using the word queer. Be sure to use it appropriately and only around people who feel comfortable hearing the term.


  1. What does queer mean? | Planned Parenthood 
  2. Definitions | The Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Intersex Life | Vanderbilt University
  3. Queer Definition & Meaning | Merriam-Webster