Norwegian gøy means "fun" in both Bokmål and Nynorsk. Does this word have anything to do with English gay?

Wiktionary says gay comes ultimately from Proto-Germanic ganhuz "sudden" via Old French gai "joyful, laughing, merry", but under ganhuz, Wiktionary lists no North Germanic descendants.

2 Answers 2


According to the Norske Akademis Ordbok, gøy is from English “gay”.

  • 3
    @LjL Doesn't seem like too much of a stretch, since the difference between /ei/ and /øy/ is only a single feature. Though I also don't know what sound change might have caused it.
    – Draconis
    Commented Jul 10, 2019 at 16:13
  • 5
    @LjL I think you may be relying too much on the spelling and how the individual vowels of the diphthongs are pronounced outside of the diphthongs. "Gøy" sounds a lot more similar to English "gay" than "gei" would (I'm a native speaker).
    – Sverre
    Commented Jul 10, 2019 at 18:07
  • 2
    I've also found some material claiming gøy as related to English Guy (as in Guy Fawkes): the Swedish Wiktionary does that, although I haven't checked the (video?) citation it provides, and then I saw it mentioned on a forum where someone was asking about the word's origin, for the little that's worth. Color me confused as to how Guy Fawkes would semantically turn into gøy, but at least in terms of phonetics, to me personally the jump from Guy seems less weird than the one from gay, although I'm a native speaker of neither language.
    – LjL
    Commented Jul 10, 2019 at 19:21
  • 2
    @LjL Because there's no diphthong in Norwegian beginning with [e].
    – Sverre
    Commented Jul 13, 2019 at 0:06
  • 1
    @LjL for all practical purposes the vowel in English gay (i.e. the face vowel) is a diphthong /eɪ/ instead of a monophthong */e/, so a Norwegian wouldn't necessarily naturally start with a monophthong /eː/ to render it. Norwegian orthographic ei is phonologically /æɪ/, so that's rather off, and it wouldn't not make sense if Norwegian simply chose to use øy /œʏ/ for Eng./eɪ/, especially considering rounding for front vowels isn't a thing in English. Commented Jul 18, 2019 at 9:47

According to Språkrådet's and Universitet i Bergen's ordboka, gøy comes from English 'guy', meaning 'make fun on', from Dutch 'guich', the etymology of which I do not know:

fra engelsk guy 'gjøre narr av', av nederlandsk guich 'grimase'

Source: https://ordbokene.no/bm,nn/search?q=g%C3%B8y

So there does not seem to be as direct a connection as one could hope for.

  • I find this explanation more convincing. The English /ʌ/ vowel often ends up as ø in loan words into Norwegian; cf "tøff" from "tough". But I have never heard "guy" in this sense. Commented Oct 4, 2022 at 13:12
  • It's familiar to me, though I don't know that I would use it myself. Wiktionary (sense 2) gives several quotations.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Oct 5, 2022 at 16:58

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.