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

Definition of yokel

: 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 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 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, 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, 25 Oct. 2017 Everyone is too goddamn afraid of Trump and his band of yokels. GQ, 11 Oct. 2017 See More

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.

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

Learn More About yokel

Time Traveler for yokel

Time Traveler

The first known use of yokel was circa 1819

See more words from the same year

Listen to Our Podcast About yokel

Dictionary Entries Near yokel




See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for yokel

Cite this Entry

“Yokel.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/yokel. Accessed 24 May. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More Definitions for yokel


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

More from Merriam-Webster on yokel

Nglish: Translation of yokel for Spanish Speakers


Test Your Vocabulary

Name That Food

  • a-light
  • Name these cookies!
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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