Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Yankee

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The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day is Yankee. Read on for what it means, how it’s used, and more.

What It Means

Yankee can refer broadly to anyone born or living in the U.S., or it can refer more narrowly only to those in the northern U.S., or even more narrowly, only to those in the states of New England. The broadest use is especially common outside the U.S.

// It took the children some time to adjust to being the only Southerners in a classroom full of Yankees.

YANKEE in Context

“We’re pretty good here in Vermont about being mindful about recycling. It is in our genes. Depression-era residents used to keep everything, from small jars for nails, to the nails themselves after they were retrieved from old boards. That Yankee ingenuity absolutely comes from the resourcefulness and ability not to waste anything.” — editorial, The Rutland (Vermont) Herald, 31 May 2022

Did You Know?

We don’t know the origin of Yankee but we do know that it began as an insult. British General James Wolfe used the term in a 1758 letter to express his low opinion of the New England troops assigned to him, and from around the same time period there is a report of British troops using Yankee as a term of abuse for the citizens of Boston. In 1775, however, after the battles of Lexington and Concord showed that colonials could stand up to British regulars, Yankee was proudly adopted by colonials as a self-descriptor in defiance of the pejorative use. Both derisive and respectable uses have existed ever since.

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