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[fair-ee] /ˈfɛər i/

noun, plural fairies.
(in folklore) one of a class of supernatural beings, generally conceived as having a diminutive human form and possessing magical powers with which they intervene in human affairs.
Slang: Extremely Disparaging and Offensive. a contemptuous term used to refer to a male homosexual.
of or relating to fairies:
fairy magic.
of the nature of a fairy; fairylike.
noun (pl) fairies
an imaginary supernatural being, usually represented in diminutive human form and characterized as clever, playful, and having magical powers
(slang) a male homosexual
(informal) away with the fairies, out of touch with reality
adjective (prenominal)
of or relating to a fairy or fairies
resembling a fairy or fairies, esp in being enchanted or delicate

c.1300, fairie, “enchantment, magic,” from Old French faerie “land of fairies, meeting of fairies, enchantment, magic,” from fae “fay,” from Latin fata (plural) “the Fates,” from PIE *bha- “to speak” (see fame (n.)).

As “a supernatural creature” from late 14c. [contra Tolkien; cf. “This maketh that ther been no fairyes” in “Wife of Bath’s Tale”], perhaps via intermediate forms such as fairie knight “supernatural or legendary knight” (early 14c.). The diminutive winged beings so-called in children’s stories seem to date from early 17c.

Yet I suspect that this flower-and-butterfly minuteness was also a product of “rationalization,” which transformed the glamour of Elfland into mere finesse, and invisibility into a fragility that could hide in a cowslip or shrink behind a blade of grass. It seems to become fashionable soon after the great voyages had begun to make the world seem too narrow to hold both men and elves; when the magic land of Hy Breasail in the West had become the mere Brazils, the land of red-dye-wood. [J.R.R. Tolkien, “On Fairy-Stories,” 1947]

The slang meaning “effeminate male homosexual” is first recorded 1895. Fairy ring is from 1590s. Fossil sea urchins found on the English downlands were called fairy loaves.


A male homosexual, esp an effeminate one; fag, queer: Too bad you weren’t a fairy (1895+)
In addition to the idiom beginning with fairy


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  • Fairy dust

    noun a magical dust thought to be used by fairies; by extension, any hypothetical thing thought to have special powers Word Origin 1840

  • Fairyfloss

    /ˈfɛərɪˌflɒs/ noun 1. (Austral) a very light fluffy confection made from coloured spun sugar, usually held on a stick Also called (chiefly Brit) candyfloss, (US and Canadian) cotton candy

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