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 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, "Big Bird flies away," 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, "10 Stephen King films that deserve remakes," 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, "America’s Original Identity Politics," 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, "After 8Chan-gate, THQN unveils stirring anti-Nazi game set in 1930s Germany," 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, "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

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

Time Traveler

The first known use of yokel was circa 1819

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Cite this Entry

“Yokel.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/yokel. Accessed 22 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for yokel


How to pronounce yokel (audio)

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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Nglish: Translation of yokel for Spanish Speakers

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