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Well into the mid 20th century a middle-aged bachelor could be described as "gay", indicating that he was unattached and therefore free, without any implication of homosexuality. The British comic strip Jane, first published in the 1930s, described the adventures of Jane Gay.
The title of the 1938 French ballet Gaîté Parisienne ("Parisian Gaiety"), which became the 1941 Warner Brothers movie, The Gay Parisian, The derived abstract noun gaiety remains largely free of sexual connotations and has, in the past, been used in the names of places of entertainment; for example W. Yeats heard Oscar Wilde lecture at the Gaiety Theatre in Dublin.
The extent to which these usages still retain connotations of homosexuality has been debated and harshly criticized.
In English, the word's primary meaning was "joyful", "carefree", "bright and showy", and the word was very commonly used with this meaning in speech and literature.
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