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See also: Dyke and dike


English Wikipedia has an article on:

Alternative forms[edit]

  • dike (standard US spelling)

Etymology 1[edit]

A variant of dike, from Northern Middle English dik and dike (ditch), from Old Norse díki (ditch). Influenced by Middle Dutch dijc (ditch; dam) and Middle Low German dīk (dam).[1] See also ditch.



dyke (plural dykes) (British spelling)

  1. (historical) A long, narrow hollow dug from the ground to serve as a boundary marker.
  2. A long, narrow hollow dug from the ground to conduct water.
  3. (dialect) Any navigable watercourse.
  4. (dialect) Any watercourse.
  5. (dialect) Any small body of water.
  6. (obsolete) Any hollow dug into the ground.
  7. (now chiefly Australia, slang) A place to urinate and defecate: an outhouse or lavatory.
    • 1977, Ian Slack-Smith, "The Passing of the Twin Seater" in The Cubbaroo Tales:
      In Cubbaroo's dim distant past
      They built a double dyke.
      Back to back in the yard it stood
      An architectural dream in wood.
  8. An embankment formed by the creation of a ditch.
  9. (obsolete) A city wall.
  10. (now chiefly Scotland) A low embankment or stone wall serving as an enclosure and boundary marker.
  11. (dialect) Any fence or hedge.
  12. An earthwork raised to prevent inundation of low land by the sea or flooding rivers.
    • 1891, Susan Hale, The Story of Nations: Mexico, p. 100:
      The king of Texcuco advised the building of a great dike, so thick and strong as to keep out the water.
  13. (figuratively) Any impediment, barrier, or difficulty.
  14. A beaver's dam.
  15. (dialect) A jetty; a pier.
  16. A raised causeway.
  17. (dialect, mining) A fissure in a rock stratum filled with intrusive rock; a fault.
  18. (geology) A body of rock (usually igneous) originally filling a fissure but now often rising above the older stratum as it is eroded away.
Derived terms[edit]
Related terms[edit]


dyke (third-person singular simple present dykes, present participle dyking, simple past and past participle dyked)

  1. (transitive or intransitive) To dig, particularly to create a ditch.
  2. (transitive) To surround with a ditch, to entrench.
  3. (transitive, Scotland) To surround with a low dirt or stone wall.
  4. (transitive or intransitive) To raise a protective earthwork against a sea or river.
  5. (transitive) To scour a watercourse.
  6. (transitive) To steep [fibers] within a watercourse.

Etymology 2[edit]

English Wikipedia has an article on:

Uncertain. Attested since the 1940s (in Berrey and Van den Bark’s 1942 American Thesaurus of Slang)[2] or 1930s.[3]

Semantic development from dyke (ditch) has been proposed, and some sources from the 1890s are said to record dyke as slang for "vulva" and hedge of the dyke as slang for "pubic hair",[4][5] but Green's Dictionary of Slang says dyke in the latter phrase had no reference to lesbianism and Dictionary.com considers a connection unlikely.[6]

Bull dyke / bulldike is attested earlier, in reference to women since at least the 1920s[6][4] (the 29 July 1892 Decatur Daily Review in Illinois mentions a woman who "won the affections of Harvey Neal, alias 'Bulldyke'", whose gender is unclear),[7][8] and bulldyker (and the practice of bulldyking) are also attested earlier, e.g. in Parke's 1906 Human Sexuality, in the speech of Philadelphians,[9] and backcountry American blacks.[4] Compare bulldagger, attested since around the same time[6] and used especially by black women.[10][11]

Other linguists suggested that bull dyke(r) referred to strong black women who dug dikes, or derived from bull + dick, perhaps in reference to black men.[4][12]


dyke (plural dykes)

  1. (slang, usually derogatory) A lesbian, particularly one with masculine or butch traits or behavior.
Usage notes[edit]

This term for a lesbian is often derogatory (or taken as such) when used by heterosexuals but is also used by some lesbians to refer to themselves positively. See reclaimed word and reappropriation for discussion.

Derived terms[edit]
Related terms[edit]
The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.


  1. ^ Oxford Dictionaries. "dyke".
  2. ^ "dike, dyke, n.3" The Oxford English Dictionary. 2nd ed. 1989, OED Online, Oxford UP, April 4, 2000.[1].
  3. ^ dyke”, in Merriam–Webster Online Dictionary.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Douglas Harper (2001–2021), “dyke”, in Online Etymology Dictionary.
  5. ^ Green's Dictionary of Slang, "hedge"
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 bulldyke” in Dictionary.com Unabridged, Dictionary.com, LLC, 1995–present.
  7. ^ Green's Dictionary of Slang, "bull-dyke"
  8. ^ “Word Origins: dyke”, in (please provide the title of the work)[2], accessed 3 December 2019, archived from the original on 3 December 2019
  9. ^ Joseph Richardson Parke, Human Sexuality: A Medico-literary Treatise (1906), page 309: "In American homosexual argot, female inverts, or lesbian lovers, are known euphemistically as 'bulldykers,' whatever that may mean: at least that is their sobriquet in the 'Red Light' district of Philadelphia.
  10. ^ JoAnne Myers, Historical Dictionary of the Lesbian and Gay Liberation Movements (2013), p. 97
  11. ^ Yetta Howard, Ugly Differences: Queer Female Sexuality in the Underground (2018), p. 238, which also refers to "Bogus, “The 'Queen B,'” and Walker, “The Debutante in Harlem,” 58–102, and “Lesbian Pulp in Black and White,” 103–138, for considerations of the figure of the black bulldagger in other Harlem Renaissance texts."
  12. ^ Charles Panati, Sexy Origins and Intimate Things (1998), p. 181: "In fact, “bulldiking” is one of the earliest phrases in which the term “dike" has tough female overtones. It appeared in the American South in the nineteenth century, used by American blacks. Some linguists believe that strong black women who helped dig watercourses on Southern plantations were called “bulldikes.” Others, however, claim that "dike" is really a corruption of "dick", slang for "penis," and [...] argue that in the American South, black men who worked on plantations were called "bull dicks" by their white owners."
  • Oxford English Dictionary, "dike | dyke, n.¹" & "dike | dyke, v.¹".




From Old English dīc



dyke (plural dykes)

  1. A dry-stone wall usually forming a boundary to a wood, field or garden.
  2. A mound of earth, stone- or turf-faced, sometimes topped with hedge planting, used as a fence between any two portions of land.
  3. A hedge