yo·​kel | \ ˈyō-kəl How to pronounce yokel (audio) \

Definition of yokel

: a naive or gullible inhabitant of a rural area or small town

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Did You Know?

The origins of "yokel" are uncertain, but it might have come from the dialectal English word yokel, meaning "green woodpecker." 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 from current use is the often disparaging use of the adjective "citified." A more colorful (albeit historical) example is "cockney," which literally means "cock's 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

How not to be a local yokel The parents of one of David Benglian’s Penn classmates bought their son a Society Hill townhouse to live in during the school year. Alfred Lubrano, Philly.com, "Class never dismissed: First-generation Penn alumni still feel like imposters," 25 Oct. 2017 Though comic buffoons and yokels are scattered through a number of Shakespeare’s tragedies, Lear’s universe is relentlessly bleak, and the Fool, despite his jingling, is neither oaf nor jester. Cynthia Ozick, New York Times, "King Lear Is Reborn as a 21st-Century Media Mogul," 25 Oct. 2017 Everyone is too goddamn afraid of Trump and his band of yokels. GQ, "ESPN Fed Jemele Hill to the Wolves," 11 Oct. 2017 Though stereotypes cast the Tohoku residents as yokels, Parry finds them sophisticated, if slightly more rugged due to the rough terrain and harsh climate of the region. Lisa Levy, New Republic, "A Journalist Confronts the Japanese Tsunami," 9 Oct. 2017 Angry that they'll be replaced by technology like Google Home and Amazon Echo, a group of Confederate Flag-waving yokels took to the streets in riot gear, LARPing armor, and Halo helmets to protest. Matt Miller, Esquire, "Somehow South Park Made White Supremacists Even More Pathetic Last Night," 14 Sep. 2017 Mere hours after the Warriors beat the Cleveland Cavaliers to win their second NBA championship in three seasons, some yokel posted a tweet, citing no source, asserting that the Warriors had voted unanimously to boycott a visit to the White House. Gary Peterson, The Mercury News, "Peterson: La Russa enjoyed his White House visits, but it’s a different time for Kerr, Warriors," 14 June 2017 Forced to share office space in a taxidermy shop, Josh discovers just about every yokel cliche there is – some of it funny, some of not even worth mentioning. The Washington Post, The Denver Post, "Some hits, misses in true-crime mockumentary “Trial & Error”," 15 Mar. 2017 Trump justified his risky and indefensible action with an effort at misdirection worthy of the three-card monte dealers who still fleece yokels on the sidewalks of Manhattan. Michael D'antonio, CNN, "Trump puts his interests before the national interest," 9 May 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'yokel.' 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 yokel

circa 1819, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for yokel

perhaps from English dialect yokel green woodpecker, of imitative origin

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Time Traveler for yokel

The first known use of yokel was circa 1819

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English Language Learners Definition of yokel

informal used as an insulting word for a person who lives in a small town or in the country far away from cities and is regarded as stupid


yo·​kel | \ ˈyō-kəl How to pronounce yokel (audio) \

Kids Definition of yokel

: a person from a small town or the country who has little education or experience

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More from Merriam-Webster on yokel

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with yokel

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for yokel

Spanish Central: Translation of yokel

Nglish: Translation of yokel for Spanish Speakers

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