\ˈyȯ \

Definition of yaw 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1 : the action of yawing especially : a side-to-side movement

2 : the extent of the movement in yawing


yawed; yawing; yaws

Definition of yaw (Entry 2 of 2)

intransitive verb

1a of a ship : to deviate erratically from a course (as when struck by a heavy sea) especially : to move from side to side

b of an airplane, spacecraft, or projectile : to turn by angular motion about the vertical axis

2 : alternate restlessly yawing between apparent extremes— Martin Kasindorf

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Synonyms & Antonyms for yaw

Synonyms: Verb

break, cut, sheer, swerve, veer, zag, zig

Antonyms: Verb


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Did You Know?


In the heyday of large sailing ships, numerous nautical words appeared on the horizon, many of which have origins that have never been traced. "Yaw" is one such word. It began showing up in print in the 16th century, first as a noun (meaning "movement off course" or "side to side movement") and then as a verb. For more than 350 years it remained a sailing word, with occasional side trips to the figurative sense "to alternate." Then dawned the era of airplane flight in the early 20th century, and "yawing" was no longer confined to the sea. Nowadays, people who love boats still use "yaw" much as did the sailing-men of old, but pilots and rocket scientists also refer to the "yawing" of their crafts.

Examples of yaw in a Sentence


Sensors measure the pitch and yaw of the plane. The airplane's rudder is used to control yaw.


the ship yawed hard to the right when the rogue wave hit it broadside
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Her own research has led her to suspect that the treponema bacteria originated in the New World, manifesting as yaws and spread through skin-to-skin contact exposed by a warm climate. National Geographic, "Syphilis DNA Pulled From Colonial-Era Bones," 21 June 2018 Each drive mode recalibrates how the MagnaRide dampers adapt to the car in motion, sampling data from wheel speed sensors, pitch, roll, yaw, and a list of other sensors all via the CANbus at 1,000Hz. Jonathan M. Gitlin, Ars Technica, "We went to drive the new Ford Mustang—but a tornado messed things up," 17 May 2018 This yaw assist — or torque vectoring — helps the Enclave steer with more stability and less front-tire scrub. Malcolm Gunn, courant.com, "2018 Buick Enclave," 17 May 2018 With the optional trailer-tow group, the Trackhawk can pull 7,200 pounds; selecting Tow Mode modifies torque delivery and sets the suspension to counter pitch and yaw. Andy Mikonis, chicagotribune.com, "Driving the 707-horsepower Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk in a word? SICK," 15 Sep. 2017 The allowable rates of wheelspin and yaw are determined according to driving mode or, when in manual mode, by the driver via the instrument cluster. Steve Siler, Car and Driver, "2019 Mercedes-AMG C63 Sedan, Coupe, and Cabriolet," 29 Mar. 2018 Light Turbulence that momentarily causes slight, erratic changes in altitude and/or attitude (pitch, roll, yaw). John Cox, USA TODAY, "Ask the Captain: Describing different levels of turbulence," 8 Apr. 2018 And the yaw can contribute to the larger exit wound. New York Times, "Wounds From Military-Style Rifles? ‘A Ghastly Thing to See’," 4 Mar. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Air was not flowing smoothly over the F-14's wings while it was configured for landing, creating an opportunity for the plane to suddenly yaw left or right. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "Watch This F-14 Tomcat Spin Out of Control," 15 Aug. 2017 A video shows the helicopter lifting off and then yawing — or twisting — to the left nearly one full rotation before rising out of view. Jesse Paul, The Denver Post, "Flight For Life helicopter crash in Frisco that killed pilot was caused by hydraulic issue, NTSB finds," 28 Mar. 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'yaw.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of yaw


1546, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1586, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for yaw


origin unknown

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Dictionary Entries near yaw






yawing moment


Statistics for yaw

Last Updated

14 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for yaw

The first known use of yaw was in 1546

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More Definitions for yaw



English Language Learners Definition of yaw

: movement of an airplane, ship, etc., to the left or right; especially : unwanted left or right movement


\ˈyȯ \
yawed; yawing

Kids Definition of yaw

: to turn suddenly from a straight course The boat yawed in heavy seas.


\ˈyȯ \

Medical Definition of yaw 

: one of the lesions characteristic of yaws — see mother yaw

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More from Merriam-Webster on yaw

See words that rhyme with yaw

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for yaw

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about yaw

Comments on yaw

What made you want to look up yaw? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


exaggeratedly or childishly emotional

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