Robert Peston, the BBC’s business editor, has been defended for using the established term “Queer Street” to describe financial dire straits.

Peston posted a link to his BBC blog on Twitter, saying: “Why investors love lending to UK government – & how Debt Management Office kept us out of Queer Street.”

As some Twitter users responded with criticism, Peston responded with a link to the term’s Wikipedia page, which explains its many possible etymological origins.

He describing the accusation of homophobia as “bonkers”.

In his blog, Preston praised the UK Debt Management Office, suggesting: “Without its prudence, we might all be in Queer Street or Skid Row by now.”

Peter Tatchell pointed out that Mr Peston had not intended the word as a slur.

He said: “People are being over-sensitive, I appreciate their good intentions but he wasn’t using it in a gay put-down sense.

“The etymology of the word ‘queer’ as Robert Peston used it has nothing to do with homosexuality.”

Peston’s use of the centuries-old term on his BBC blog was not linked to any views opposing gay rights, however the unexpected reaction comes during national Anti-Bullying Week, in which many charities are focusing on pejorative use of gay-related words.