yo·​kel ˈyō-kəl How to pronounce yokel (audio)
: a naive or gullible inhabitant of a rural area or small town

Did you know?

The origins of yokel are uncertain, but it might have come from the dialectal English word yokel used as the name for the green woodpecker (the nickname is of imitative origin). Other words for supposedly naive country folk are chawbacon (from chaw, meaning "chew," and bacon), hayseed (which has obvious connections to country life), and clodhopper (indicating a clumsy, heavy-footed rustic). But city slickers don't always have the last word: rural folk have had their share of labels for city-dwellers too. One simple example is the often disparaging use of the adjective citified. A more colorful (albeit historical) example is cockney, which literally means "cocks' egg," or more broadly "misshapen egg." In the past, this word often designated a spoiled or foppish townsman—as opposed to the sturdy countryman, that is.

Examples of yokel in a Sentence

a lame comedy about the misadventures of yokels in the big city
Recent Examples on the Web Trujillo reimagines the sentimental yokels of Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire, as fervent, travel-ready fundamentalists. oregonlive, 5 Sep. 2023 And, with perhaps the canniest remark on the design’s yokel-ness, someone else claimed to have seen the new logo wandering around Rockefeller Center asking for the Christmas tree. Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker, 23 Mar. 2023 The team brings up a yokel from the minor leagues, Shane (Michael Oberholtzer), to relieve him, and Shane’s gruesome, heartfelt (and English-language) bigotry finally shakes the team to its roots. Helen Shaw, Vulture, 4 Apr. 2022 The first comic, Charles F. Browne, hit the lecture circuit in 1861 and adopted the pseudonymous persona of a country yokel named Artemus Ward. Harry Bruinius, The Christian Science Monitor, 29 Nov. 2021 At first he was depicted as a country yokel, but by the end of that first season the puppet’s operator, Carroll Spinney, had changed tack. The Economist, 14 Dec. 2019 King himself directed this gloriously goofy adaptation of a short story from his Night Shift collection about a group of local yokels trapped in a roadside truck stop by a convoy of killer big rigs. Matthew Chernov, chicagotribune.com, 5 Sep. 2019 Urbanites defined themselves as forward-looking sophisticates who sneered at yokels in backwaters; cosmopolitanism faced off against parochialism. Sarah Churchwell, The New York Review of Books, 7 Feb. 2019 Every single in-game model, from huge wooden shacks to flying spaceships, and from slack-jawed yokels to individual blades of grass, has been handsomely redrawn by this remaster's development team. Sam MacHkovech, Ars Technica, 11 June 2019 See More

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

Word History


perhaps from English dialect yokel green woodpecker, of imitative origin

First Known Use

circa 1819, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of yokel was circa 1819


Dictionary Entries Near yokel

Cite this Entry

“Yokel.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/yokel. Accessed 1 Mar. 2024.

Kids Definition


yo·​kel ˈyō-kəl How to pronounce yokel (audio)
: a country person with little education or experience

More from Merriam-Webster on yokel

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!