« previous post | next post »

Today I learned that yeet means (among other things) "To discard an item at a high velocity". I didn't learn this from the not-very-reliable Urban Dictionary, but from Umar Shakir, "Tom Brady says the next sideline Surface he yeets will cost him: Microsoft’s star tablet may finally be safe on the sideline", The Verge 12/29/2021:

On the Sunday Night Football stage, December 19th, Tom Brady and the Buccaneers were swept for the second consecutive regular season against the Saints — a frustrating shut-out loss that had Brady spiking a poor Microsoft Surface tablet on the sideline.

Now, per Brady on his Let’s Go podcast that aired Monday, the NFL is not going to let the Surface abuse continue. Should the seven-time Super Bowl champion throw the tablet again, he will be fined. “I did get warned from the NFL about that so… I won’t throw another Surface.” Brady said.

As far as I can tell, Brady didn't use the word yeet himself, though I confess that I didn't listen to every second of the relevant 37-minute podcast.

Meanwhile, Miriam-Webster has no entry for yeet,  and the OED registers it as a transitive verb meaning "To address (a person) by the pronoun ye instead of thou", with 1.5 15th-century citations:

1440 Promptorium Parvulorum (Harl. 221) 537/2 Ȝeetyn, or sey ȝee [1499 Pynson ȝetyn or sey ȝe with worship], voso.

The OED entry also references the verb thowt, glossed as "To address (a person) with the pronoun thou", and cited to the same 15th-century source(s):

1440 Promptorium Parvulorum (Harl. 221) 535 Þowton, or thowton [1499 Pynson yowtyn, a1500 King's Cambr. þowtyn], tuo.

Wikitionary does have a relevant entry, glossed "To throw an object a long distance or with a sudden or forceful motion", with quotations going back to 2018 — including another Brady appearance:

  • 2018 November 19, Zachary Shevin, “U. community gathers, chants, 'yeets' during first bonfire since 2013”, in The Daily Princetonian[5]:

    Towards the end of the fire, Kelling overheard the student talking to his friends about "yeeting" his "Speak Freely" into the fire…[He] ran up to the fence and threw his book toward the fire, yelling out "yeet" while he threw it.
  • 2018 December 20, Petrana Radulovic, “Hytale is a Minecraft follow-up that remembers the minigames”, in RockPaperShotgun[6]:

    It’s the moment the troll lifts up a lump of turf and yeets it at a hero on a horse
  • 2019 April 1, Joshua Gottlieb, “Andy Hoe to create 'Yeeting Zone' in Ocean for safe VK yeeting”, in The Tab[7]:

    [A] “Yeeting Zone” is going to be established to solve the problem of dangerous VK bottle yeeting. This comes after unsuspecting Notts students have fallen victim to having bottles thrown in their face…He hopes that this new arrangement will allow clubbers to yeet their VKs, whilst ensuring that other clubbers stay safe.
  • 2019 May 3, David Mello, “Tom Brady Appears on Jimmy Kimmel Live! and Yeets a Football Through Matt Damon's Window”, in Up To Boston[8]:

    Brady gladly participated and yeeted (maybe the past tense of yeet, meaning to throw, is "yote"?) a football through Damon's window.

Update — apparently these days, everybody yeets. Even solar systems — Stephen Luntz, "The Famous Three-Body Problem Has A Drunken Solution", IFL Science 12/30/2021:

To demonstrate the power of the process, Ginat modeled systems of three stars to see how likely it was that one would be ejected, the stellar equivalent of stepping into the void.

Most of the galaxy's stars are in binary pairs. Single stars like the Sun are rare, but triple systems are rarer still. Where they exist they're usually temporary arrangements, unless one star is so much more massive the others behave like planets. It's long been understood interactions between the stars usually cause one's ejection, but Ginat and Perets present the probabilities under different distances between the two closer stars. Their model reveals a series of close encounters before one star (not always the initial outsider) is yeeted into the great beyond and can even incorporate factors such as tides that have previously usually been discarded as too complex.


  1. Steveb said,

    December 30, 2021 @ 1:37 pm

    Another instance: https://www.local10.com/news/weird-news/2021/06/01/17-year-old-girl-shoves-bear-to-save-her-dogs-in-viral-video/?outputType=amp

    “My cousin Hailey yeeted a bear…”

  2. Yuval said,

    December 30, 2021 @ 1:43 pm

    I'm a little surprised since yeet was very high-profile around that time, earning it a nomination for ADS WOTY (albeit with a perplexing gloss which didn't really catch the vibe even back then).

    [(myl) I was familiar with the "indication of surprise or excitement" gloss, which was cited in the WOTY list (and may be part of the "throw" version's backstory?).]

  3. J.W. Brewer said,

    December 30, 2021 @ 1:57 pm

    This is a word several of my children seem to use. I think my wife has tried to add it to her active lexicon to facilitate communication with the seven-year-old, but I have not thus far attempted to do so. Should you be interested, Jeff Bezos will sell you a t-shirt proclaiming "THE LORD YEETETH AND THE LORD YOINKETH AWAY." https://www.amazon.com/Lord-Yeeteth-Yoinketh-away-Shirt/dp/B07QV3QDMG

  4. David L said,

    December 30, 2021 @ 2:39 pm

    @JWB: That's funny and very cross-generational. Doesn't 'yoink' derive from Scooby-Doo?

  5. Jerry Friedman said,

    December 30, 2021 @ 2:47 pm

    I recently heard it with the meaning "dump (one's romantic partner)". Someone in a future century will probably conclude that that comes from the "address as ye instead of thou" meaning, with a gap in the attestations.

  6. V said,

    December 30, 2021 @ 3:12 pm

    I have no idea whatsoever what "yeet" means: young people seem to be using in various ways.

  7. V said,

    December 30, 2021 @ 3:13 pm

    Rejection seems to be the common theme.

  8. Matthew E said,

    December 30, 2021 @ 4:06 pm

    I was coming in here to cite “yoink” also. I don’t *think* it’s from Scooby-Doo, although it’s possible. I was using it more than ten years ago in both noun and verb forms in reference to books that I wanted to read so much I would grab them off the bookstore or library shelf on sight.

  9. J.W. Brewer said,

    December 30, 2021 @ 6:14 pm

    Scooby-Doo classically features "Zoinks!" as an interjection (not as the 3d pers. sg. of a verb "to zoink"). I suppose an alternative interjection "Yoinks!" could be plausible dialect variation and then you'd have the same process whereby "yeet" apparently migrated from interjection to inflectable verb.

  10. delagar said,

    December 30, 2021 @ 6:52 pm

    I remember being deeply puzzled by yeet a few years ago, which lead to this post on my blog:


    [(myl) Worth embedding:


  11. dispatchrabbi said,

    December 30, 2021 @ 7:46 pm

    I am particularly surprised that the dictionaries consulted did not cite either of the two vines responsible for popularizing "yeet" (in the modern sense of "throw something away at high velocity", from which the other polysemous senses derive).

    The first (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N1Y6jjGoq6U) is an early citation, but the second (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RAzuy7UxlE8) did a lot of work popularizing the word, and is definitely worth watching.

  12. Jonathan Smith said,

    December 30, 2021 @ 8:01 pm

    Imitative/iconic yeet — 'vocalization accompanying forceful, disparaging heave of object deemed worthless' — is old, apparently 2014


    I think it faded and made a comeback in some new context; the kids would know…

    Re: phonology and the meme "Eat [the food? I thought you said yeet," glides /j/ /w/ are at times regarded as unlikely to contrast before /i/ /u/ respectively, but in English these would seem to be entirely unproblematic…

  13. Jonathan Smith said,

    December 30, 2021 @ 8:04 pm

    should be "[the food]?"
    "unlikely to contrast with ∅-"

  14. Morgan said,

    December 30, 2021 @ 8:10 pm

    I came across this recently on Scott Manley’s (quite good) space-related YouTube channel when he posted a video about SpinLaunch titled “Can Spinlaunch Throw Rockets Into Space?”, but with a thumbnail including the words “The biggest yeet!”.

    I’ve only been watching him for a couple months, so I don’t know how long that’s been In his lexicon.

  15. Eric Ringger said,

    December 30, 2021 @ 8:10 pm

    My Facebook post from December 27, 2018: https://www.facebook.com/1645230118/posts/10215740972831050/

    It's official. I know many of you have already thought this for years, but I've just come to the conclusion on my own that I'm an old man.

    My children were explaining to me the meaning of 'yeet'. They provided documented usage examples, shared memes, explained their own uses of it — both ironic and unforced — had some disagreement about its precise meaning, and even gave evidence of emerging semantic shifts. They reassured me that I've certainly encountered it in the wild, even though I did not recognize it for what it was. My reply? "That's dumb." Resistant to neologism. Incontrovertible evidence of old manhood.

  16. Jonathan Smith said,

    December 30, 2021 @ 9:12 pm

    Did not see dispatchrabbi @7:46 when posting above, but note the 2014 uses of 'yeet' attested in these videos is not a verb but rather an "exclamation" or sth (cf. heave-ho, etc.)

  17. Nancy Friedman said,

    December 30, 2021 @ 9:15 pm

    "101-year-old lobsterwoman yeets lobster back into ocean" was a popular meme in August 2021.

  18. Carl said,

    December 30, 2021 @ 10:26 pm

    The Simpson’s popularized “yoink” as far as I know. It probably goes back further though.

  19. Luke said,

    December 31, 2021 @ 2:32 am

    "yoink" was actually popularized by the Simpsons, as an exclamation made while grabbing something from someone.

  20. cameron said,

    December 31, 2021 @ 3:40 am

    I've always taken "yoink" to be a jocular variant of "yank".

    "Yeet" is something else altogether, though I think the videos from about 15 years ago that have been posted above make it pretty clear where it came from

  21. Ben Zimmer said,

    December 31, 2021 @ 6:01 am

    Yeet was a strong contender for the American Dialect Society's 2018 Word of the Year, though it ended up losing out to tender-age shelter/camp/facility. For more, see our treatment of yeet in the Feb. 2021 installment of "Among the New Words" in American Speech.

    [(myl) The relevant passage from "Among the new words", February 2021:

    Yeet, the winner in the Slang/Informal category in 2018 (and the runner-up in the overall WOTY), has led a varied lexical life as an interjection, verb, and noun. The word has often been linked to dance moves and throwing objects, but in various youth subcultures yeet has been embraced as a general exclamation of enthusiasm, surprise, or excitement. The earliest Urban Dictionary entries for yeet or yeet yeet as an interjection date back to 2008, though the expression did not start to spread more widely until 2014, when it was used in conjunction with dance videos circulating on Black social media. Early examples of the “Yeet Dance,” often involving rhythmic shoulder dips, were uploaded to YouTube and Vine by such users as Milik Fullilove, MarQuis Trill, and especially a teenager from Dallas dubbed Lil Meatball (Anwar 2015). While these dance videos achieved viral success in 2014, another video from that year helped cultivate a different trajectory for the term. In a video clip shared on Vine, a high school girl is handed a soda can and exclaims, “This bitch empty!” before hurling it into a hallway full of fellow students as she yells, “Yeet!” The can-hurling video inspired various imitations and memes, and by 2018 yeet had achieved widespread success as a slang term. Yeet could be used as a verb for throwing something over a long distance or some other sudden, forceful motion, with yote as a humorous past-tense form (Ritzen 2018). Video gamers (such as those playing Fortnite) adopted yeet for their own purposes, typically for certain powerful moves leading to the defeat of an opponent. Yeet may, however, be reaching the end of its slang trajectory, descending like a quickly tossed soda can.

    But given the recent links in the original post, and the many others like this one, I'm skeptical of the quickly-tossed-soda-can prediction… ]

  22. Allan from Iowa said,

    December 31, 2021 @ 9:30 am

    Probably Not Dorothy Parker: "This is not a book to be tossed aside lightly. It must be yeeted."

  23. Charles in Toronto said,

    December 31, 2021 @ 12:05 pm

    I'm a bit old (39) to be the correct generation for "yeet" but have heard of it for the past few years. My received impression is that it's shifted to be less about how forcefully they throw something, and more about the fact that they really just have no use for it. And then by extension it gets thrown into contexts where, maybe literal "yeet" doesn't describe it correctly, but "yeet" is just a funnier word that makes it more sarcastic to say it that way.

    i.e. one might hear something like "The premier is content to yeet our children back into schools without any tools to protect them against Omicron."

  24. V said,

    December 31, 2021 @ 3:07 pm

    "The premier is content to yeet our children back into schools without any tools to protect them against Omicron." — That sounds like something plausible you might see.

  25. David Cameron Staples said,

    January 1, 2022 @ 2:59 am

    Yeah, my understanding was that "yeet" is the opposite of "yoink".

    So where "to yoink" is to deliberately and speedily grab something, "to yeet" is to deliberately but hastily throw something away.

    Either way, there are overtones that neither yoinking nor yeeting are done accidentally, nor are they done in the fullness of time. You're not casually discarding something when you yeet it, you're treating as you might a grenade with the pin pulled: you want it as far away from you as possible as quickly as possible.

    There's probably also overtones that, because the important thing is that you want it away from you, the destination isn't really important. That would explain Charles in Toronto's "The premier is content to yeet our children back into schools without any tools to protect them against Omicron." The implication is that the children aren't being placed, they're not even being aimed, they're just being ejected hastily but carelessly in the general direction of the schools.

  26. M. Paul Shore said,

    January 1, 2022 @ 5:44 am

    There are hints on line that “yeet” in the sense discussed here may have something to do with the Yeats Appliance Dolly company of Fullerton, California (since dollies are often used to discard things). I also have to wonder whether the word might have something to do with the unusually popular multi-use word “yeat” from the local slang of Newburyport, Massachusetts. Does anyone have any insights regarding these possibilities?

  27. David Marjanović said,

    January 1, 2022 @ 10:54 am

    Re: phonology and the meme "Eat [the food? I thought you said yeet," glides /j/ /w/ are at times regarded as unlikely to contrast with ∅- before /i/ /u/ respectively, but in English these would seem to be entirely unproblematic…

    Yes, that's a common but not universal constraint. I wonder if it's a difference between languages that actually have /j w/ as separate phonemes from /i u/ and those that don't.

    Similarly, however, many languages – not quite as many – don't allow /je/ and/or /wo/ either. Japanese has turned the syllable ye into e in historical times.

  28. Philip Taylor said,

    January 1, 2022 @ 11:07 am

    To be honest, the only thing that interests me about "yeet" is that so many people are sufficiently motivated to want to discuss it. Surely it is nothing more than evanescent "youf-speak", here today and gone tomorrow. Why its evolution, antecedent(s) and etymology are of interest to anyone completely eludes me.

  29. V said,

    January 1, 2022 @ 2:45 pm

    Philyp Taylor: "Why its evolution, antecedent(s) and etymology are of interest to anyone completely eludes me.": Because that is the purpose of linguistics?

  30. JPL said,

    January 1, 2022 @ 4:28 pm

    @Philip Taylor:

    It looks like 'yeet' does not have an "etymology" in the traditional historical linguistics sense, but rather could be a neologistic example of the human expressive impulse for ideophonics; it's just that English grammar does not really have a place for ideophones in its sentence structure the way languages that have a productive category of ideophones do, and so it gets expressed in verbal or nominal positions. (Maybe something close to an ideophone in English would be something like "willy-nilly" in "He decided to go ahead with the risky project willy-nilly.") Its specific semantic contribution seems to involve the emotional attitude that impels the act of throwing (e.g., an eagerness to be rid of X), rather than the mechanics of the motion; and the phonetic shape of its signifier suggests imitation of an accompanying verbal outburst, rather than being indicative of a lexical category with a history (of both sound and meaning, e.g., a noun or verb) in the traditional sense.

  31. Toby said,

    January 2, 2022 @ 8:25 pm

    Even Norwegian children seem to have adopted 'yeet' in the sense of throwing away – a video I was sent by a friend featured his young son throwing an object forcefully into a rubbish container whilst shouting a word somewhere between yeet and jeet (a hypercorrection, I'd guess).

  32. David L said,

    January 2, 2022 @ 8:41 pm

    something to do with the Yeats Appliance Dolly company of Fullerton, California

    That seems highly unlikely. Dollies are used, in my experience, to trundle large objects such as refrigerators from one location to another at a deliberate speed. The opposite of yeeting.

    And I was wrong for suggesting earlier that 'yoink' came from Scooby-Doo. Clearly I was confusing my yoinks with my zoinks.

    Curiously, my Derbyshire-born father used the word 'hoick' (spelling uncertain) to mean something link 'yoink' — that is, grab something forcefully and abruptly, as in tugging an overgrown weed out of the ground. I have no idea where that came from.

  33. Philip Taylor said,

    January 3, 2022 @ 6:11 am

    "Hoick", in the sense of yanking something out of the ground, is not restricted to Derbyshire. It is an integral part of my idiolect, and I was born (and spent most of my life) on the London/Kent border.

  34. Craig said,

    January 9, 2022 @ 8:07 am

    I halfway expect a hyperlate Latin etymology to appear from iaciō, by way of French jeter or Neapolitan iettà.

  35. Josh R. said,

    January 11, 2022 @ 7:50 pm

    JPL said,
    '(Maybe something close to an ideophone in English would be something like "willy-nilly" in "He decided to go ahead with the risky project willy-nilly.")'

    "Willy-nilly" appears to be a contraction and/or combination of "will ye, nill ye" or "will he, nill he", meaning "whether [you/he] want to or not."

RSS feed for comments on this post