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In American English, the term "fag" (a variant on "faggot") is a largely pejorative term for male homosexuals.

Originally, the word "faggot" referred to a bundle of sticks for fire, and later especially to those bundles used when heretics were burned at the stake. Its use for male homosexuals originated in the US in the early 20th century.

As with the use of "nigger" within some black communities, the word "fag" has to some extent been reclaimed by the gay community. Some homosexuals use the word to one another without any derogatory implication. For example the term "Fag hag" is often used by male homosexuals to describe their female friends.

American teens seem to be using fag as a generalized term of derision. This would seem to be related to the similar usage of gay, but the usage of fag seems to be more obviously tied to the sex/gender issues than does gay.

Related Terms

In British English, "fag" is used as a colloquialism for a cigarette, as in "I'm gasping for a fag", or "where can I get some fags?". This can cause confusion or shock to speakers of American English. "Fag" is understood as "cigarette" when spoken by a Brit, but is recognized in the US sense when spoken by an American.

Also in Britain the word "fag" is used (as a verb and a noun) to refer to a kind of apprenticeship (similar to the practice known in the US as hazing[?]) practiced within public schools. Younger boys within the school fag for the older boys by cooking breakfasts, cleaning sports kit or other menial tasks. Casual violence and bullying are sometimes associated with fagging in the popular consciousness. This practice has now largely died out.

In the Britain and Ireland the word "faggot" refers to a traditional dish consisting of liver and onions rolled into meatballs. However, the term in this context has almost completely fallen out of usage. It is extremely unlikely that a British host would ever serve up a dish of faggots. Interestingly though you can still buy a product known as Brain's faggots[?].

"Faggot" also has the American meaning in England (with meatballs and bundles of firewood as still current, but slightly old-fashioned senses).

"Faggot" is also an old-fashioned imperial unit for sticks:

1 short faggot of sticks = 2 ft. girth x 32 in. long bundle of short wood sticks/billets
1 long faggot of sticks = 2 ft. girth x 4 ft. long bundle of long wood sticks/billets
1 faggot of iron = 2 ft. girth x 1 ft. long bundle of iron/steel rods/bars for horseshoes & so forth

See also: American and British English Differences.

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