Lesbian Terms & Code In Women's LGBTQ History

You're sussed on Lesbian slang but how many historical Lesbian terms and lesbian code do you know? Did you know once upon a time Lesbians were called.. inverts, tribades, and uranians!
Check out this timeline of lesbian terms and code throughout history.

Timeline of Lesbian Terms   |   Lesbian Rights Timeline   |   Cool Lesbian Pioneers in History   |   Lesbians Who Made History Quiz


c. 630 - Saphho

Lesbian Terms: Saphho

Saphho: as you all know, once upon a time, on the island of Lesbos lived a beautiful Greek poet called Sappho who became a symbol of love and desire between women with the English words sapphic and lesbian being derived from her name and the name of her home island of Lesbos.

c. 335 - 323 BC - Lesbian Rule

Lesbian Terms: Saphho

Lesbian Rule: Oxford Dictionary Definition of Lesbian Rule = a mason's rule made of lead, which could be bent to fit the curves of a moulding. The etymology of Lesbian Rule comes from the the island of Lesbos as these flexible rulers were originally constructed of a pliable type of lead found specifcally on the island of Lesbos.

The term Lesbian Rule is alluded to by, Greek philosopher, Aristotle, in his treatises Nicomachean Ethics:

"For what is itself indefinite can only be measured by an indefinite standard, like the leaden rule used by Lesbian builders; just as that rule is not rigid but can be bent to the shape of the stone, so a special ordinance is made to fit the circumstances of the case."

According to the OED, in the 17th century, the phrase "Lesbian Rule" was commonly used in English in a figurative sense, referring to "a principle of judgement that is pliant and accommodating."

1601 - Tribade

Lesbian Terms: Tribade

Lesbian Term: Tribade: Oxford Dictionary Definition of Tribade = a lesbian. The etymology of Tribade via Latin tribas a lesbian, from Greek tribein to rub. The delightlful term Tribbing = ... scissoring!

The term Tribade is recorded as early as 1601, in Ben Jonson's Praeludium (Poem X in The Forest):

Or, with thy tribade trine, invent new sports

1660 - Travesti

Lesbian Terms: Travesti

Transvestite Term: Travesti: Travesti is a theatrical term referring to the portrayal of a character in an opera, play, or ballet by a performer of the opposite sex.

Since the presence of real women on stage was considered immoral until the late 17th century in England and the late 18th century in the Papal States, on stage, women were portrayed by male actors in drag. With the Restoration of Charles II in 1660 women started appearing on the English stage, both in female and male roles. Amongst the 19th century actresses who made a mark in travesti roles were Mary Anne Keeley, Maude Adams and Sarah Bernhardt.

1654 to 1715 - The Game of Flats

Lesbian Terms: The Game at Flats / The Game Of Flats

The Game at Flats / The Game Of Flats: Lesbian: An early slang term for lesbian sex. "Game of flats". Why the bizarre term "Game of flats" as a euphuism for lesbian sex? In the early 18th century, playing cards were sometimes known as "flats" and ... hmm, I will leave the rest to your imagination.

Two examples of the use of the term "game of Flatts" are in:

1654-1655 - a "report" in the "newsbook" Mercurius Fumigosus which was published between 1654-55 by John Crouch (a Royalist journalist who had been previously imprisoned by Oliver Cromwell's government for his two previous"newsbook"):

They walk out hand in hand like two disconsolate Virgins to seek Mandrakes to help them make perfect what their lost Sweethearts have left behinde, their concupiscence being so predominant in the House of Venus, that being at a game of Flatts upon a bed, a young man hearing the bed tell tales, steping softly to the door, discovered the Jogg, and so returned, myuch pittying the extremities poor female mortalls are driven to by the unkindness of men’ | Source

1715 - a satirical song titled "The Game at Flats" by English dramatist and poet Nicholas Rowe:

While SAPPHO with harmonious Airs
Her dear PHILENIS charms,
With equal Joy the Nymph appears
Dissolving in her Arms ... | Source

FYI Nicholas Rowe was appointed Poet Laureate (an honorary position appointed by the monarch of the United Kingdom) in 1715!

A more risqué slang term, used round about that time was 'tipping the velvet' - according to fab writer Sarah Waters, 'velvet', meant 'tongue'. If you haven't worked it out ... it rhymes with "cunning linguistic" ;)

1732 - Lesbian

Lesbian Terms: Lesbian

Lesbian Term: Lesbian: Collins Dictionary definition of Lesbian = used to describe gay women. The etymology of Lesbian is via Latin from Greek Lesbios, from Lesbos - a Greek island which was the home of Greek poet Sappho, who expressed affection for women in her poetry.

Seriously, can the following be true? Apparently, during the four decades it took to create the 12-volume Oxford English Dictionary (OED), completed in 1928, the word Lesbian appeared only in reference to the island of Lesbos. Only with OED's 1976's Supplement did the word Lesbian appear as an 1890 synonym for Tribadism.

Although the term lesbian was used in the 1890 National Medical Dictionary by the American surgeon and librarian John Shaw Billings, as an adjective to describe tribadism (as "lesbian love") there are earlier mentions of the term Lesbian in for example... 1732 - William King's poem "The Toast":

A nobler Verse – The British Myra sings;
The mighty Thing, which Lesbian Loves began,

1866 - Algernon Charles Swinburne's poem "Sapphics":

Saw the Lesbians kissing across their smitten,
Lutes with lips more sweet than the sound of lute-strings,

1773 - Tommy

Lesbian Terms: Tommy

In the late 18th century, the word "Tommy" was used as a slang term for a woman who was into women. By the gender inference of the term, it implied that a "Tommy" was an unusually masculine woman. The term possibly was a play on "Molly" which was used for male homosexuals and the "Molly houses" of the time where gay men and "gender-nonconforming" people could meet.

Examples of the usage of the "queer" term "Tommy" are:

1773: in a a satirical poem - "The Adulteress" by Anon

"Woman with Woman act the Many Part,
And kiss and press each other to the heart.
Unnat'ral Crimes like these my Satire vex,
I know a thousand Tommies 'mongst the Sex." | Source

1778: as a footnote to the poem "A Sapphick Epistle" from "Jack Cavendish to the Honourable and most beautiful Mrs D****" [FYI Mrs D**** = English sculptor Anne Damer née Conway]

"She was the first Tommy the world has upon record; but to do her justice, though there hath been many Tommies since, yet we never had but one Sappho." | Source

1834 - After Anne Lister married Ann Walker on March 30, 1834 at Holy Trinity Church in York, England an anonymous trolling announcement appeared in the The Leeds Mercury newspaper ridiculing the "marriage" of "Captain Tom Lister of Shibden Hall to Miss Ann Walker, late of Lidget, near the same place". | Source

1824 - Queer

Lesbian Terms: Queer

Queer: prolific English diarist Anne Lister used the word "queer" to surprisingly mean... FANNY! That is to say she used the term "queer", in her coded diaries to mean "vulva" or sometimes "vagina". Certainly the BBCs slick Gentleman Jack series does not allude to this.

1824 - Lister 2, 12 November 1824, pg. 67:

She begins to stand closer to me. I might easily press queer to queer

1832 - Lister 3, 11 October 1832, pg. 93:

Got (for the first time) right middle finger up her queer... She whispered that she loved me

For more information check out Mette Hildeman Sjölin's Adapting the queer language of Anne Lister’s diaries.

1840s - Sapphist

Lesbian Terms: Sapphist

Lesbian Term: Sapphist: Collins Dictionary definition of Sapphist = a lesbian. Adjective sapphic = relating to lesbians and/or lesbianism. The etymology of Sapphist is via Greek poet Sappho whose poetry often reveals her tender affection for other women.

So far I have only found that the term sapphist was used during much of the Victorian era.

1864 - Uranian

Lesbian Terms: Uranian

Queer Term: Uranian: Uranian is a term that referred to homosexual men. The term Uranian was first published by Karl Heinrich Ulrichs in a series of five booklets (1864–65) collected under the title Forschungen über das Räthsel der mannmännlichen Liebe (Research into the Riddle of Man–Male Love). Ulrichs was a German Lawyer and gay, who is regarded today as a pioneer of gay rights.

Ulrichs derived the term Uranian from the Greek goddess Aphrodite Urania, who was created out of the god Uranus'... testicles! Uranian represented the homosexual gender. The term Dionian represented the heterosexual gender and was derived from Aphrodite Dionea. Apparently, Ulrichs developed his terminology before the first public use of the term homosexual, which appeared in 1869 in a pamphlet published anonymously by Karl-Maria Kertbeny.

Opera Singer Felicita Vestvali was described as being Uranian by Rosa von Braunschweig, a longtime friend, in the Yearbook of Intermediate Sexual Types (1903).

1868 - Homosexual

Lesbian Terms: Homosexual

Queer Term: Homosexual: Cambridge Dictionary Definition of Homosexual = a person who is sexually attracted to people of the same sex and not to people of the opposite sex. The etymology of Homosexual via Greek homos, "same" + sexual.

The first known appearance of the word homosexual in print is found in an 1869 German pamphlet by the Austrian-born novelist Karl-Maria Kertbeny, published anonymously, arguing against a Prussian anti-sodomy law. However, a year earlier, on May 6, 1868, Karl Heinrich Ulrichs wrote to Kertbeny, using four new terms he had coined: "Monosexual; Homosexual; Heterosexual; und Heterogenit"

1870 - Invert

Lesbian Terms: Invert

Queer Term: Invert: Sexual inversion was a term used by late 19th and early 20th century sexologists, to express the inborn reversal of gender traits i.e. taking on the gender role of the opposite sex.

In 1870, in the Archiv für Psychiatrie, Karl Friedrich Otto Westphal, an eminent professor of psychiatry at Berlin Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin (one of Europe's largest university hospitals) published a detailed account of a young woman who, from her earliest years, was sexually inverted: she liked to dress as a boy, only cared for boys’ games, and as she grew up was sexually attracted only to women, with whom she formed a series of tender relationships.

Surprisingly the term invert was not confined to medical books. A friend of the sexologist, Havelock Ellis who had published Sexual Inversion (1897) which is thought to be the first English medical textbook on the subject of homosexuality, and a believer in his theory of sexual inversion, Radclyffe Hall gave this theory, fictional expression through her infamous novel The Well of Loneliness (1928). Moreover, Havelock Ellis provided a foreword to the novel in which he consistently used the term invert to refer to its "he-was-a-she" protagonist, Stephen Gordon, who bore a strong resemblance to one of Austrian psychiatrist Richard von Krafft-Ebing's case studies. Thank goodness the term invert is no longer used!

1886 - Boston Marriage

Lesbian Terms: Boston Marriage

Lesbian Term: Boston Marriage: Merriam Webster definition of Boston marriage = a long-term loving relationship between two women. First known use of Boston marriage = 1893, in the meaning defined above (but no citation given).

Although Henry James never used the term Boston marriage within his book it is most likely the term Boston marriage is derived from his popular novel The Bostonians (1886), which centres around a long-term relationship between two unmarried women living together in Boston. The Bostonians was inspired by Henry James' sister Alice (an American diarist) who lived in such a relationship with American educator Katherine Loring.

1906 - Bulldyke > Dyke

Lesbian Terms: Bulldyke / Dyke

Queer Term: Bulldyke: Oxford English Dictionary definition of Bull Dyke = a lesbian, esp. one whose appearance, behaviour, or identity is regarded as masculine. The term "Dyke" (meaning "lesbian") is derived from the word "bulldyke". (Forgive me, I find "Dyke" amusing as, a geologic dike is a flat body of rock that cuts through another type of rock - I am a lezza and... an ex-geologist.)

Though the origin of "bulldyke" is unknown and many theories have been proposed, some of the first references to "bulldyke" appear in American in print.

1906 - Human Sexuality: A Medico-literary Treatise on the Laws, Anomalies, and Relations of Sex by Joseph Richardson Parke, Pg. 309:

"In American homosexual argot, female inverts, or lesbian lovers, are known euphemistically as "bulldykers," whatever that may mean: at least that is their sobriquet in the "Red Light" district of Philadelphia."

1921 - Medical Review of Reviews, "The 'Fairy' and the Lady Lover" by Perry M. Lichtenstein, M.D., pg. 373:

"She stated that she had indulged in the practice of "bull diking," as she termed it. She was a prisoner in one of the reformatories, and there a certain young woman fell in love with her."

1928 - Home to Harlem by Claude McKay, pg. 129:

"Sapphic and Lesbian...beautiful words." "What is that there Leshbian?" "...Lovely word, eh?" "That’s what we calls bulldyker in Harlem," drawled Jake. "Them’s all ugly womens." "Not all. And that’s a damned ugly name," the waiter said. "Harlem is too savage about some things. Bulldyker," the waiter stressed with a sneer.

The term was indeed very ugly, hurtful, vilifying, derogatory... As time has passed, the term "dyke" has been reappropriated by some out and proud lesbians. Moreover, Dyke Marches have sprung up in cities around the world with thousands upon thousands of lesbian marchers. One of the first Dyke Marches was held on October 17, 1981 by the now-defunct organisation Lesbians Against the Right. 350 women marched the "Dykes in the Streets" through Toronto (Canada) streets to show lesbian power, pride, and visibility.

1920s - Lavender Marriage

Lesbian Terms: Lavender Marriage

Queer Term: Lavender Marriage: Lavender Marriage = a term coined to describe a marriage between a man and a woman in which one, or both are gay and is undertaken as a marriage of convenience to conceal the sexual orientation of one or both partners.

During the 1920s the term lavender marriage came into colloquial use with the imposition of morality clauses into the contracts of Hollywood actors. First introduced by Universal Film Company, the morality clauses, permitted the film company to discontinue actors' salaries "if they forfeit the respect of the public". The kind of behaviour deemed unacceptable ranged widely from criminal activity to association with any conduct that was considered indecent or startling to the community. Notably MGM actor William Haines' career was destroyed when he refused to end his relationship with his male partner Jimmy Shields, and enter into a lavender marriage at MGM's discretion. Thus some gay notable Hollywood stars entered into lavender marriages to protect their public reputations, and preserve their careers.

Why the colour lavender? Sappho's poems indicated she fancied younger women with "violet tiaras" and in the 1920s some lesbians gifted violet flowers as an expression of sapphic interest.

1930s - Friend of Dorothy

Lesbian Terms: Friend of Dorothy

Queer Term: Friend of Dorothy: in gay code, a friend of Dorothy is a euphemism for a gay man which dates back to at least World War II, when homosexual acts were criminalised. Now the term is used by anybody in the LGBTQ+ community. I L.O.V.E this old-skole term.

The exact origin of the term friend of Dorothy is unknown and there are various theories:

  • Dorothy Parker - in the roaring 1920s and '30s slick, witty writer NYC and socialite Dorothy Parker had many gay friends. When she would throw "famous parties at Garden of Allah's lavish celebrity villas", gay men would use the phrase for entry. Many began using the code for social gay networking as they lived in fear of discovery and persecution.
  • Dorothy from L. Frank Baum's novel The Road to Oz (1909) - the novel is a sequel to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900). When Polychrome meets Dorothy's travelling companions, he exclaims, "You have some queer friends, Dorothy", and she replies, "The queerness doesn't matter, so long as they're friends."
  • Dorothy from the movie The Wizard of Oz (1939) - both the movie, the song "Over The Rainbow" and Judy Garland who starred as Dorothy are gay icons. Note - The stonewall riots coincidentally happened in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969 - Judy Garland's funeral was June 27, 1969.

1930s - The Sewing Circle

Lesbian Terms: The Sewing Circle

Lesbian Term: The Sewing Circle: The Sewing Circle - a discreet code for a network of Hollywood lesbian and bisexual actresses who hung out together.

There is contention as to who came up with the name The Sewing Circle. Alla Nazimova (a Russian-American) actress is credited as coming up with term The Sewing Circle. Thereafter, Marlene Dietrich secretly called her group of Hollywood lesbian and bi women stars, her Sewing Circle. As documented by Axel Madsen in his book The Sewing Circle (1996), this included a surprising array of key Hollywood stars: Greta Garbo, Barbara Stanwyck, Joan Crawford... They stars met at one another's Hollywood houses for lunch, conversation and... aye! Mercedes de Acosta (a playwright...) seems to have struck it very lucky there.

1930s Onwards ...

Lesbian / LGBT Terms

1930s + Lesbian Terms / Slang: Lizzie, lezzie, leso, les, lezzer, lezza and, the utterly delightful terms, NOT!: bean flicker, carpet muncher, pussy nuncher, muff diver, todger dodger, switch hitter, gillette blade, scissor sister...

Contrary to the sweet children's rhyme: "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me" - derogatory names DO HURT.

1960s - "Jailhouse Turnout"

Lesbian / LGBT Terms

A "jailhouse turnout" was used to describe someone who was "introduced" to homosexuality following incarceration.

Historically in movies, Butch prison wardens, Jailhouse lesbians were seen as predatory but this changed with the Australian soap opera, Prisoner: Cell Block H (1979–1986) which spawned many popular TV series, including: Hinter Gittern - Der Frauenknast (1997–2010), Bad Girls (1999–2006), Unité 9 (2012–2019), Orange Is the New Black (2013–2019), Vis a vis (2015–2019) ... featuring love between Jailhouse lesbians and “jailhouse turnouts”.

In the past, studies on homosexuality in prison have been the subject of controversy, cynicism, and disapproval. In 2011, Pardue, Arrigo and Murphy published Sex and Sexuality in Women's Prisons: A Preliminary Typological Investigation which brought a more empathetic study (actually, quite interesting to read).

1969 - Gay (appropriated by Gays)

Lesbian Terms: Gay

Queer Term: Gay: The word Gay was originally used to mean "carefree", "cheerful", or "bright and showy" but now primarily refers to a homosexual person or the trait of being homosexual.

During the 12th century the word gay arrived in English via Old French "gai" to mean "carefree", "cheerful". However by the late 17th century, it had evolved to also mean "uninhibited by moral constraints" thus a gay woman was a prostitute, a gay man a womanizer, a gay boy served male clients and a gay house a brothel.

Apparently Bringing Up Baby (1938) was the first movie to use the word gay in reference to homosexuality when Cary Grant wearing a woman's feather-trimmed robe, as his clothes have been sent to the cleaners, replies "Because I just went gay all of a sudden!". In early July 1969, due in large part to the Stonewall riots in June of that year, the Gay Liberation Front was born and the word gay to mean homosexual was appropriated by gays themselves.

1970s - WLW

Lesbian Terms: Gay

Queer Acronym: WLW, stands for women-loving woman / women-loving women (and not be confused with Cincinnati radio station WLW (700 AM)). WLW is regarded as an umbrella term used to describe women who are attracted to or are in a relationship with other women, regardless of what their specific sexualities or labels might be.

What's the origin of the term WLW? Sorry, I am not sure - please do enlighten me. Some say that the term WLW women-loving woman / women-loving women originated from Black American slang, during the slick 1920's Harlem Renaissance, with the rise of stellar black female blues artists, like WLW Gertrude 'Ma' Rainey, Lucille Bogan ... ? But perhaps not? Check out More Than You Ever Wanted to Know About "WLW". Personally, I think it was coined /used by lesbian feminists and activists in the 70s, as I can't imagine whiskey galore Harlem Blues singers like Lucille Bogan's calling her song "B.D. Woman's Blues" ("B.D." was short for "bull dykes") = "W.L.W Blues"

"You're a Lemon!" - a lemon was sometimes used as an old-skool derogatory term for lesbian. Yes indeed, in the uK, ragged rascals ran around their rugged playground shouting at some girls "You're a Lemon!".

1976 - Oxford English Dictionary's New Definition of Lesbian

Lesbian Terms: Gay

Apparently, during the four decades it took to create the 12-volume Oxford English Dictionary (OED), completed in 1928, the word Lesbian appeared only in reference to the island of Lesbos. Only with OED's 1976's Supplement did the word Lesbian appear as an 1890 synonym for Tribadism.

1978 - BTW 1 > The Rainbow Flag

c 1980s? - "She (/ He) Bats For The Other Team"

Lesbian Terms: LGBT acronyms

"She bats for the other team" is a euphemism for homosexuality.

This is a phrasal template where you can insert your own variables e.g. "plays", "bats", "swings" + "the other team", "the other side". The Etymology is from either cricket or baseball. I can't find when it was first used but I confess I used the term when I was still shy of coming OUT due to incessant homophobia.

c 1992 - From GLB To LGBT... Acronyms

Lesbian Terms: LGBT acronyms

The evolution of our gay acronyms are ever changing and, pining down dates is v hard (do a Google search)!

"GLB" vs "LGB"
1992 - in the 1992 Oxford Dictionary of Acronyms, the acronym:
  • "GLB" was listed and given as "gay, lesbian, bisexual (formerly Girls Life Brigade)". Source
  • "LGB" = "lesbian, gay, bisexual" is not listed in this edition of Oxford Dictionary of Acronyms.
But do consider, the Oxford Dictionary has often been late at including LGBT+ related words.

So when was "L" for lesbian placed at the start of the LGB ... acronym?
Hmm? The Oxford English Dictionary's earliest evidence for "LGB" is from 1985, in "Valley Women's Voice" (Massachusetts). One wonders if there was a bit of personal preference regarding "GLB" vs "LGB" in that lesbians would place "L" first while gay men would place "G" first. DavePhD interestingly consulted Google Ngram Viewer (Google's search engine that charts the frequencies of any set of search strings in a vast collection of books, documents, and other textual sources). Astutely, he pointed out that there are other meanings of GLB and LGB so a search string "GLB students" to "LGB students" might bring up better results - see the results for "GLB students", "LGB students" ...

Why does the "L" come before the "G" in LGBT ...?
Hmm? At first, as indicated above the acronyms "GLB" and "LGB" were used interchangeably according to personal preference. Some have advocated, LGB ... became more used as an acknowledgement of the solidarity lesbians caringly showed to gay HIV/ AIDS sufferers, during the AID crises, and who helped gay men by donating blood to the gay victims, paying for medication, providing them with food and housing and fighting for medical research. Others suggest that it is easier to say LGBT compared to GLBT? Check out the interesting debate on skeptics.stackexchange.com.

LGBT - from about 1988, in the United States, gay activists began to use the acronym LGBT i.e Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender. The LGBT acronym has now evolved into... LGBTIQCAPGNGFNBA!

What does LGBTIQCAPGNGFNBA stand for? LGBTIQCAPGNGFNBA definition is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, Questioning, Curious, Asexual, Pansexual, Gender Nonconforming, Gender-Fluid, Non-Binary, Androgynous. Forgive me, now I got Super‐cali‐fragil‐istic‐expi‐ali‐docious ringing in my head!

c 1990s? - "Dropping Hairpins"

Lesbian / LGBT Terms

"Dropping Hairpins" / "Hairpin Drop" - "Dropping hairpins" is a euphemism for dropping gay hints during a conversation. "Dropping hairpins" was indeed a gay gambit to suss whether or not it was safe for the person to come out to the other in conversation and, sometimes to induce the other "suspect" to follow suite, particular the object of one's desire.

Wow, "dropping hairpins", is a new slick term I've just learnt! Being shy, I have indeed dropped many hairpins, in the past. Shame, I can't find out when it came into use.

Secret Lesbian Signals Via Accessories Through History

Secret Lesbian Signals Via Accessories Through History

In the past, in the closet lesbians not only used verbal code to secretly identify themselves to other girl friends of Dorothy but some of them wore particular accessories known to the community. By wearing an accessory in a particular way they didn't have to verbalise that they were lesbian and therefore could just wear the accessory to "eye wink" their sexual orientation. Out there (on the web), there is sadly little information regarding accessories worn by lesbians to secretly identify themselves to others :( Historical examples:

  • Rings:
    • Pinky ring / tumb ring
    • Brazil - a coconut ring, usually worn on the thumb, is an established symbol of lesbian identity in Brazil.
  • 1920s English violets - violets became a secret code for lesbians and were also worn as an adornment such as violets pinned to a ladies chest or "violet tiaras". Check out which other flowers that were queer symbols.
  • 1930s French monocles - during the 1930s some lesbians wore a monocle as a secret lesbian code. It's not quite clear if the famous 1930s lesbian bar Le Monocle, in Paris, started the fad or the bar's name was inspired by this fad.
  • FYI: WWII, Hitler's Nazi Regime - An inverted black triangle symbol, sewn onto the shirts of camp prisoners, was used to mark prisoners designated as Asozial ("asocial" including feminists, lesbians and prostitutes) and Arbeitsscheu ("work-shy"). An inverted pink triangle symbol, was used to identify exclusively gay male prisoners. Find out some experiences of lesbians during the Nazis Regime.
  • 1970s button badges - rainbow / interlocking venus symbol lapel badges.
  • 2020s - shockingly, lesbian coded symbols are still crucial in some countries e.g. in Burundi, East Africa, where homosexuality is still illegal, some lesbians wear T-shirts with a discreet, matching symbol only beknown to them. Source: BBC
  • A queer aside - an upside down pineapple is a code for swingers (couples who enjoy swapping sexual partners)

Check out the ab fab blog Dressing Dykes: Lesbian Fashion History by dress historian, Eleanor Medhurst

2020s - Embrace YOUR Chosen Term :)

Lesbian / LGBT Terms

I'm here and ... queer!

Check out this v sweet vid by Grindr of "Old" lesbians sussing out new lesbian slang

Up for a bonnie wee LGBT / Lesbian trivia quiz? Will you score :)


Lesbian Glossary of Terms

Why include a glossary of historical terms used within the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ+) communities which some are offensive? ...

Groovers, everyone is classified / labelled via... colour, ethnicity, religion, sexuality, age, weight, music, fashion... Thanks to amazing lesbian trailblazers in history and other slick sapphic pioneers mentioned throughout this site, youngsters are finding it (hopefully) a tad easier to come out. Yet, we are still sometimes shouted at in the streets or talked behind our backs, with derogatory terms. During the research for this site, I came across some historical lesbian terminology I had never heard of, so I thought it would be interesting to include this historical Lesbian glossary of terms. In this modern age of "enlightment", I wonder which you would call yourself? Finally, I have found the guts to choose mine = gay / queer :) Worried about Coming out? Check out some Coming Out FAQs.

BTW - In 1930s London, gay men adopted Polari to secretly communicate with each other without being arrested for violating Britain’s anti-sodomy laws. Polari was a language based on slang which incorporated Italianate words, Romani, Yiddish, Cockney rhyming slang ... and was used originally as a kind of secret language in England by people in theatres, fairgrounds etc. Examples of gay Polari include: "chicken" = a young man, "bear" = large, often hairy man (still used), "meat and two veg = ... penis and testicles and, ... now we know where it comes from, "MINGE" – vulva!

Ps Check out a dippy lesbian quiz to test your lesbian & LGBT historical trivia