• Yankee •
yæng-kee • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: A term for natives of the American Colonies, dating from the 17th century. It gained wider usage during the War of Independence (1775-1783) and continues today.
Notes: Southerners, who use today's word strictly to refer to Northerners, are often taken aback when they go abroad and hear themselves called Yanks. But today is a day of national unity in the US, so distinctions like this disappear, at least temporarily. Before you start singing or playing "Yankee Doodle Dandy", though, you might want to read Audra Himes's analysis and explication of the lyrics to that patriotic song by clicking here.
In Play: We suggest you not use today's Good Word as do our Cockney brethren in England. In Cockney slang, Yank rhymes with tank so, as a result of the crystal clear logic of that game, US Americans become Seppos, short for septic tank. You fill in the blanks. Australians have picked up the habit, too. Of course, we have a few unflattering names for them, too.
Word History: A British officer in 1789 suggested that Yankee comes from the Cherokee word eankhe "slave, coward". It might just as well come from a Native American pronunciation of English, yengees, which later became Yankees. Yankee could have been withdrawn from this word by back derivation. Most probably, however, it comes from Dutch nickname for Jan "John"—Janke, where Dutch J is pronounced [y]. In 1817, an observer noted that the populace of Richmond were "mostly strangers; Scotch, Irish, and especially New England men, or Yankees, as they are called." (We dedicate today's word to soldiers and their families who fought, and continue to fight, to protect values of this Great Experiment around the world.)