Printable Version
Pronunciation: yes Hear it!

Part of Speech: (Sentence) Adverb, Noun, Interjection

Meaning: 1. (Sentence adverb) An affirmative response to a yes-no or a negative question: "Don't you want to go?" "Yes, I do." 2. (Noun) An answer or vote of "yes": "The final count was five yeses and four nos." 3. Used to express great satisfaction at an outcome.

Notes: Today's Good Word has several variants: yeah, yep, yepper, yessir, and the emphatic yessiree—all very slangy. This word is known in linguistics as a "sentence adverb" because it is used to replace an affirmative response to a yes-no question. While we find no derivational relatives of yes, we do find a compound, yes-man, someone who servilely says yes to everything a higher authority asks.

In Play: The first meaning of today's word is the most common: "Do you think Lance Sterling loves himself more than anyone else?" "Yes, I do." The second meaning is far less often used than the first: "The passage of the motion didn't surprise me; what surprised me was the size of the yes vote." The third meaning is difficult to exemplify: After receiving the prize for this year's best Frisbee player, Dalton made a gesture like he was jerking a lever and exclaimed, "Yes!"

Word History: In Old English today's Good Word was gese "so be it", probably from gea, ge "so, yes" + si "be it", third person imperative of beon "to be". It seems to have originally represented a stronger sentiment than simple yea. Old English gea "so, yes" is from Proto-Germanic ja (pronounced [yah]), a word of affirmation still present in German, Danish, Dutch, Norwegian, and Swedish. The trail goes cold at this point; no one seems to know where gea came from. It is difficult to track such small words, because they provide so little evidence to base investigations on and that evidence is easily confused. (Yes, it was Jeremy Busch, Grand Panjandrum in the Agora, who suggested today's small but very meaningful Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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