Printable Version
Pronunciation: yah-hu Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, Interjection

Meaning: 1. (Noun, offensive) A clod, hick, bumpkin, lout, or rube. 2. (Interjection) An exclamation of happy excitement or exultatation, as in, "Yahoo! I won the lottery!"

Notes: The founders of the Yahoo search engine apparently didn't read Gulliver's Travels or they might have chosen a less ambiguous name, say, Geronimo! The noun, yahoo, is an insulting term for an uneducated dirt farmer. Now that farmers are as well-educated as the rest of us, the sense of this word has expanded to include any ignoramus. Yahooism and yahoodom have been tried as abstract nouns, without much success.

In Play: This offensive word is used mostly in reference to someone lacking the penchant for clear thinking: "Some yahoo from the Flat Earth Society wanted equal time to explain his position in my geography class." When that request was turned down, all the students in the geography course yelled, "Yahoo!"

Word History: The noun yahoo and the interjection are probably different words. The noun first appeared in Jonathan Swift's 1726 novel mentioned above. Yahoos in that novel were degraded humans used as beasts of burden by the Houyhnhnms, a breed of rational horses. The interjection is probably a variant of yoo-hoo or yo-ho, extensions of you used to attract someone's attention. Cowboys resort to it often when herding cattle.

Dr. Goodword,

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