Yan·​kee | \ ˈyaŋ-kē How to pronounce Yankee (audio) \

Definition of Yankee

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : a native or inhabitant of New England
b : a native or inhabitant of the northern U.S.
2 : a native or inhabitant of the U.S.


communications code word

Definition of Yankee (Entry 2 of 2)

used as a code word for the letter y

Other Words from Yankee


Yankeedom \ ˈyaŋ-​kē-​dəm How to pronounce Yankee (audio) \ noun
Yankeeism \ ˈyaŋ-​kē-​ˌi-​zəm How to pronounce Yankee (audio) \ noun

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Many etymologies have been proposed for Yankee, but its origin is still uncertain. What we do know is that in its earliest recorded use Yankee was a pejorative term for American colonials used by the British military. The first evidence we have is in a letter written in 1758 by British General James Wolfe, who had a very low opinion of the New England troops assigned to him. We also have a report of British troops using the term to abuse citizens of Boston. In 1775, however, after the battles of Lexington and Concord had shown the colonials that they could stand up to British regulars, Yankee became suddenly respectable and the colonials adopted the British pejorative in defiance. Ever since then, a derisive and a respectable use of Yankee have existed side by side.

Examples of Yankee in a Sentence

Noun a Southern girl who married a Yankee

First Known Use of Yankee


1758, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Communications code word

1952, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for Yankee


origin unknown

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Yankee corn

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Cite this Entry

“Yankee.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Yankee. Accessed 17 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for Yankee


Yan·​kee | \ ˈyaŋ-kē How to pronounce Yankee (audio) \

Kids Definition of Yankee

1 : a person born or living in New England
2 : a person born or living in the northern United States
3 : a person born or living in the United States

More from Merriam-Webster on Yankee

Nglish: Translation of Yankee for Spanish Speakers


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