Word Count

Writers Talk About Writing

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.

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Comments from our users:

Wednesday July 9th 2014, 2:45 PM
Comment by: Gena W.
What about the evolution of the response to "thank you"? At what point did "no problem" universally supplant "you're welcome"?
Wednesday July 9th 2014, 10:19 PM
Comment by: Trapper (Vero Beach, FL)
I am not sure how to comment except to say either,"you betcha" or "yessiree, buddy"!
Thursday July 10th 2014, 2:38 AM
Comment by: Anonymous
I miss the proverbial "thank you" as well. I often encounter the "no problem" while chatting with others in the online video game that I play. I've thought about why that is, and will conjecture that one reason could be a demureness they may feel in using "thank you", tantamount to being too forthright.
Thursday July 10th 2014, 2:42 AM
Comment by: Anonymous
Instead of "thank you", I meant to say "you're welcome" in the first and third sentences, respectively.
Friday July 11th 2014, 1:43 PM
Comment by: N.W. (MI)
While you are at it, please, get rid of "YOU GUYS"!
Friday July 11th 2014, 2:00 PM
Comment by: Lyle G. (NJ)
What about "thank you so much," as opposed to "thank you very much?"

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