• oyez •
Pronunciation: o-yay, o-yez, o-yes • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Interjection
Meaning: Hear ye!
Notes: This word is often exclaimed by a court official three times before making a proclamation, usually announcing the arrival of the judge. The pronunciation [o-yes] is by folk etymology. In the past this word has been used by town criers, in opening official mayoral affairs, and elsewhere.
In Play: If pronounced [o-yes], English speakers may hear "Oh, yes!"; in fact, it has been written this way occasionally. Each session of the US Supreme Court is opened with the announcement: "Oyez! oyez! oyez! All persons having business before the Honorable Supreme Court of the United States are admonished to draw near and give their attention."
Word History: Today's Good Word originated in Middle French and Anglo-Norman oiez, oyez, the plural imperative of oyer "to hear, whittled down from Latin audire "to hear". The first courts in England were conducted in French during the Norman Period and several French terms survive in the UK and US judicial systems today. Voir dire "jury selection" is another. Audire came from the Proto-Indo-European root au-dhe- "to hear", comprising au- "to perceive" + dhe- "to do, make". This combination in Greek turned into aisthanesthai "to feel". We borrowed the Latin version of the Greek word for our aesthetic and anesthesia (British anaesthesia), from a(n) "without" + aisthe- "to feel". Russian still maintains the connection between feeling and hearing in its verb slyshat' "to hear; to sense, feel".