1 of 2


: the action of yawing
especially : a side-to-side movement
: the extent of the movement in yawing


2 of 2


yawed; yawing; yaws

intransitive verb

of a ship : to deviate erratically from a course (as when struck by a heavy sea)
especially : to move from side to side
of an airplane, spacecraft, or projectile : to turn by angular motion about the vertical axis
: alternate
restlessly yawing between apparent extremesMartin Kasindorf

Did you know?

In the heyday of large sailing ships, numerous nautical words appeared on the horizon. Yaw is one such word. Its origin isn't exactly known, but it began turning 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 centuries, it remained a sailing word—often alongside pitch ("to have the front end rise and fall")—with occasional extended use as a synonym of the verb alternate. When the era of airplane flight dawned, much of the vocabulary of sailing found new life in aeronautics, and "yawing" was no longer confined to the sea. Nowadays, yaw, pitch, and roll are just as likely to be used by pilots and rocket scientists to describe the motion of their crafts.

Examples of yaw in a Sentence

Noun Sensors measure the pitch and yaw of the plane. The airplane's rudder is used to control yaw. Verb the ship yawed hard to the right when the rogue wave hit it broadside
Recent Examples on the Web
What the pilots noticed during the Boeing 737 MAX 8 flight On May 25, the day of the flight, the captain who flew the plane noticed a previous yaw damper overcorrection was mentioned in the logbook before taking off. Michael Salerno, The Arizona Republic, 10 July 2024 Modern aircraft often have yaw dampers, which are automatic control systems that use small rudder movements to actively suppress Dutch roll. Michael Salerno, The Arizona Republic, 14 June 2024
Atlantis would be yawed 90 degrees to Columbia, pointing at three o'clock to the older orbiter's 12 o'clock, in order to keep their vertical stabilizers from striking. Lee Hutchinson, Ars Technica, 1 Feb. 2023 The plane yawed left and right, dipped and climbed to avoid the flocks, churning my stomach like a roller coaster. Smithsonian Magazine, 10 July 2023 See all Example Sentences for yaw 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'yaw.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History



origin unknown

First Known Use


1546, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1586, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of yaw was in 1546


Dictionary Entries Near yaw

Cite this Entry

“Yaw.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/yaw. Accessed 25 Jul. 2024.

Kids Definition


: to turn suddenly from a straight course : swerve, veer
heavy seas made the ship yaw
yaw noun

Medical Definition


: one of the lesions characteristic of yaws see mother yaw

More from Merriam-Webster on yaw

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