Build your vocabulary with Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day! Each day a Merriam-Webster editor offers insight into a fascinating new word -- explaining its meaning, current use, and little-known details about its origin.
July 4th, 2016
Episode 575 of 720 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 4, 2016 is: Yankee \YANG-kee\ noun 1 a : a native or inhabitant of New England b : a native or inhabitant of the northern United States 2 : a native or inhabitant of the United States Examples: "I am an American. I was born and reared in Hartford, in the State of Connecticut…. So I am a Yankee of the Yankees…." — Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, 1889 "Laura Secord wasn't really Canadian. Secord was born south of the border in Massachusetts, making her a Yankee by birth." — James Culic, Niagara This Week, 23 Mar. 2016 Did you know? Many etymologies have been proposed for Yankee, but its origin is still uncertain. What we do know is that in its earliest recorded use Yankee was a pejorative term for American colonials used by the British military. The first evidence we have is in a letter written in 1758 by British General James Wolfe, who had a very low opinion of the New England troops assigned to him. We also have a report of British troops using the term to abuse citizens of Boston. In 1775, however, after the battles of Lexington and Concord had shown the colonials that they could stand up to British regulars, Yankee became suddenly respectable and the colonials adopted the British pejorative in defiance. Ever since then, a derisive and a respectable use of Yankee have existed side by side.