Printable Version
Pronunciation: yahn-dêr Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adverb, Adjective

Meaning: At some distance from the speaker and listener (you and I).

Notes: Today's Good Word (and it is a good word) is heard mostly in the Southern US states and a few other dialects. To say that something is "over yonder" is to indicate that it is at some distance from the speaker and listener in a conversation. The early Indo-European language, mother of most of the languages in Europe and Northern India, apparently made three position distinctions: near me (here), near you (there) and somewhere else (yonder).

In Play: Serbian is a language that preserves this distinction, though in Serbian, too, the third adverb is disappearing: ovde "here", tamo "there" and onde "over there". So yonder comes from good stock. Southerners often emphasize the difference by using the phrases "right here" and "over yonder" (and not just for the benefit of Yankees): "Don't keep standing over yonder; I need you right here!" But who could have used the word more elegantly than Shakespeare's Romeo at first sight of Juliet by her window: "But soft, what light through yonder window breaks?"

Word History: This word is ancient. It is amazing that it still exists even in dialects. It is an extension of the archaic yon, which we can access now only in poetry written before the 20th century: "By yon bonnie banks and by yon bonnie braes, where the sun shines bright on Loch Lomond." Yon comes from the same roots as German jene "that, those", the Sanskrit pronoun, anena "that (one)", and the 3rd person pronoun in Serbian and other Slavic languages, on "he, it", ona "she, it", and ono "it". The root of this word appears in at least one other English word, beyond, which is where you go if you walk past yonder. (Today's Good Word comes from over yonder at the Alpha Agora, a suggestion from Perry Dror, to whom we bow in gratitude.)

Dr. Goodword,

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