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.

Example Sentences

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
One communication dish handle will adjust pitch and the other yaw. IEEE Spectrum, 23 Jan. 2023 This allows the mount to still control the altitude angle, while the drone’s movement controls the yaw (moving left or right). Lauren Sigfusson, Discover Magazine, 1 July 2016 This firms up the suspension response and asks more of the electric motors, working together with the magnetic dampers to control yaw during cornering. Jonathan M. Gitlin, Ars Technica, 12 Mar. 2020 One of the men was afflicted with the virus that causes hepatitis B, and another had a bacterium that causes the skin infection yaws, a disease similar to syphilis. New York Times, 1 May 2020 Another individual was infected with the bacterium Treponema pallidum pertenue that causes yaws, a chronic infection of skin, bone and cartilage. Fox News, 1 May 2020 One had the hepatitis B virus, and the other carried the bacterium that causes yaws, a disease in the same family as syphilis. Lizzie Wade, Science | AAAS, 30 Apr. 2020 Every man in the ship would have an intuitive sense of the weather after rising, feeling the pitch and yaw of the ship in the harsh seas. James G. Stavridis, New York Times, 14 Apr. 2020 This creates a steering effect on the rear axle, increasing yaw to help a car rotate through a corner. David Beard, Car and Driver, 22 Feb. 2020
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, 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, 28 Mar. 2017 See More

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.

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 8 Feb. 2023.

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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