Word Count

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From "Yea" and "Yes" to "Yeah" and "Yup"

Grammar Girl, a.k.a. Mignon Fogarty, has been sharing short tips on usage and style with us. Her latest tip looks at the evolution of affirmative interjections, from yea and yes in Old English to yeah and yup in contemporary English.

Daniel L. from Cincinnati wants to know where yeah falls on the "affirmative" timeline.

The Oxford English Dictionary places the first use of yeah in 1905, one year before yup. Although the first quotation for yup comes from a magazine article, the first quotation for yeah is from an academic journal on American regional dialects.

It's likely both words were in use before they showed up in print, so the best presumption we can make is that yeah and yup appeared around the same time.

Here's the timeline:

  • Yea, circa 1000
  • Yes, circa 1000
  • Yep, 1891 (first appeared as a quotation in Harper's Magazine)
  • Yeah, 1905 (first described in Dialect Notes)
  • Yup, 1906 (first appeared as a quotation in Century Magazine)
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Mignon Fogarty is better known as Grammar Girl. She is the founder of the Quick and Dirty Tips network, author of Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing, and the creator of the iOS game Grammar Pop. She is also the Donald W. Reynolds Chair of Media Entrepreneurship in the Reynolds School of Journalism and Advanced Media Studies at the University of Nevada, Reno. Click here to read more articles by Mignon Fogarty.