The Beginner’s Guide to Gay Slang

You don’t have to be connected to the gay community for long before you realize gay culture comes attached to a lot of stereotypes. Gay men love to categorize other gays they meet in their daily travels, especially when it comes to the dating scene. However, knowing that is one thing. Actually, understanding it well enough to know a twink from a bear from a wolf is another.

Here we’ll go over some of the more common gay slang terms you’ll probably hear sooner or later if you haven’t already. We’ll touch on why gay men have these stereotypes in the first place and how you can tell what category other gay men may have assigned to you as well.

Why Are There Gay Stereotypes and Why Do They Matter?

Saying that every single gay man fits squarely into one of the gay community’s boxes is definitely oversimplifying the issue a bit. Of course, there are some that really are the walking talking embodiment of an otter or a chub, but most gays are actually a combination of one or more of the slang types.

As far as why gay stereotypes matter, they really don’t in a greater social sense. However, it can be helpful to know how you’re seen by the rest of the gay community, especially if you’re into hookup culture. Birds of a feather really do flock together, so it’s common for members of a given group to hang around mostly with other members of that same group as well. Each example tends to have its own favorite music, bars, social rituals, ways of dressing, and so forth.

To gain a better understanding of how it all works, think back to the way things were in high school. You had your jocks, your band geeks, your nerds, your drama crowd, and so forth. Some groups were more likely to mix than others, but for the most part, people tended to hang around with others like them. Which group you belonged to didn’t define who you were as an individual, but it probably did affect your social persona and – to at least some extent – your personal style, your interests, and so forth. Gay subculture is similar.

Common Gay Subtypes You Should Know

Like it or not, many gay men are very focused on aesthetics and appearance. (If you’re interested in the gay hookup scene and don’t know this, you will soon.) That said, it’s probably not surprising that most of the going gay subtypes are descriptive of a given guy’s body type. Quite a lot of gay subtype slang also take inspiration from the animal kingdom, which you probably have noticed.

No, you don’t need to define yourself or others as one of the following slang types in order to have a great sex life or a rewarding gay relationship one day. However, knowing them is likely to help you make sense of the singles scene, as well as many of your favorite gay dating sites, apps, and interfaces.

  1. The Otter

Otters are thin or athletically built guys that also happen to be really hairy (much like an actual otter). Why an otter might be hairy will probably vary from one example to another. Some are making a deliberate grooming choice for aesthetic purposes. Some are artsy hipster types and want to look the part. Others just aren’t invested enough to bother not being hairy.

  1. The Wolf

Wolves actually have a lot in common with otters in that they’re good and hairy. However, your average wolf is more likely to be muscular and built than skinny and lean. They also tend to be more aggressive (especially sexually) and stereotypically “male” than your average hipster type. If you know a wolf, it’s not unlikely that he cares a lot about his hair and considers it his crowning glory. If you ever hear someone referred to as a silver wolf or a grey wolf, he’s the same as a regular wolf only older.

  1. The Bear

Not sure whether or not you know a bear? The slang is sort of self explanatory, think of that guy you know that’s heavy (or big or tall) and hairy, but completely loveable and approachable – just like a big teddy bear. A bear tends to be the guy next door that absolutely everyone loves, gay or otherwise. He’s the type of dude you can easily picture tossing back a few beers with in front of the game while the two of you split a pizza. In other words, they’re real “guy’s guys”.

  1. The Cub

As you may have guessed, cubs are a lot like bears with a few obvious differences. To begin with, cubs are typically either younger or the type of guy that looks younger than he really is because he has a baby face. They’re still bigger and burlier like bears tend to be though. Some bears are pretty secure in their identity as a gay man while others are still figuring out who they really are, usually because they are still young or inexperienced. In fact, it’s not at all uncommon for cubs and bears to gravitate toward one another just as easily as they might their own type.

  1. The Chub

Chubs are similar to bears in many ways. However, they’re typically much bigger. (Think John Goodman as opposed to John Travolta.) They’re also less likely to be hairy, sexually aggressive, or experienced as compared to bears. Some chubs can be hipster-like as far as what they’re into and what they value, but others can be nerdier types, gamers, and the like. They can be any age and still fit the stereotype – old, young, or anywhere in between.

  1. The Pup

Have you met a pup yet on your travels through the gay dating scene yet? He’d be that young, cute, mischievous gay that’s full of energy and pep, much like a real puppy. Pups are usually no older than college age and don’t tend to have a lot of experience as compared to older gays (although there are definitely pups out there that think they know everything there is to know). They’re the ones that are most likely to send cock shots as a way to generate interest on interfaces like Grindr.

  1. The Bull

Jus as the slang suggests, a bull is a gay man that’s positively gigantic – the sort of guy where that’s literally the first thing anyone notices about him. It’s possible that he might be big because of body fat (like a chub), but most bulls are big because they’re just plain muscular, very tall, or both. Like bears, bulls can be big softies inside. However, they also tend to be pretty aggressive sexually. Unlike some of the other terms listed here, not every gay can agree on what makes someone a bull, so don’t be surprised if it ever comes up for debate.

  1. The Twink

Like cubs, twinks are almost always very young gays – probably no older than their early 20’s. They’re slim, lean, and either hairless or close to it. Like a lot of young, vivacious gays, twinks tend to seem really youthful, social, and fresh-faced as well. They’re the type that would be the first to dye their hair a crazy color or jump on board with a colorful trend of any type. Lots of twinks are into conventions, pride parades, and similar activities that are all about people coming together.

  1. The Twunk

Twunks are to twinks what wolves are to otters. They’re incredibly similar in that they’re slender, usually hairless, very energetic, and young. However, they’re also more muscular (although not bulky). There are a lot of twunks out there that used to be twinks and are ultimately on their way to fitting into another group altogether (i.e. the jocks or the gym bunnies).

  1. The Gym Bunny

Gym bunnies are exactly what you probably think they are – hot sexy gay men that spend a ton of time at the gym working on their sweet bods. They’re not just fit or muscular. They’re what can really only be described as sculpted and very well-kept. Gym bunnies can be total hotties, but you probably don’t want to date one unless you’re heavy into your workouts as well. Gym bunnies might be hairy, but probably not.

  1. The Gym Rat

These are the dudes that literally never seem to stop talking about the gym or their workouts. Think social media feeds that are packed with mirror selfies taken at the gym, motivational memes about fitness, and little else. Gym rats rarely to never hang out with or date anyone but other gym rats and it’s not hard to see why. They’re positively addicted to working out and often have trouble finding common ground with anyone that isn’t.

  1. The Jock

Like gym bunnies and gym rats, jocks are super athletic and extremely active. They may even go to and love the gym. However, they’re more likely to be as fit as they are because they love activities like sports, jogging, cycling, and the like. The jock in your life might be hairy, but maybe not. He can be any age and is likely very attractive. (Think David Beckham, only gay.)

See also  7 Things Every Newbie Should Know About Gay Hookup Dating

Of course, these are just some of the slang words as these are hardly the only gay subtypes out there. However, they’re the ones you’re likely to hear thrown around the most on gay dating sites and throughout certain social circles. You may even have recognized yourself in one of them (or the type of guy you like dating most).

Rob West

Rob West

I worked with Matt to build several hookup apps for gay men, including Guyhop.

I've been in the scene for several years now. Eternally single until I find "him".

My background is in marketing and psychology, which gives me a unique perspective on the LGBTQ dating and hookup scene.