From a variation of yea, itself from Middle English ya, ye, from Old English ġēa (“yes”), from Proto-Germanic *ja (“yes; thus, so”), from Proto-Indo-European *yē (“already”). Cognate with West Frisian ja, Dutch ja, German ja, Danish ja, Norwegian Bokmål ja, Norwegian Nynorsk ja and Swedish ja, Icelandic já.
Interestingly, although perhaps merely coincidentally, modern English yeah seems to possess nearly the same pronunciation as its Old English ancestor (Old English ġēa being /jæːɑ/, Modern English yeah being [jɛə̯] or [jæə̯]) and consequently has really no other words that rhyme with it in rhotic dialects. The reason behind its seeming lack of pronunciation shift is uncertain — although it is quite possible that it simply evolved from a dialectal form of yea which developed a centring diphthong — as other words that had similar pronunciations in Old English did shift in pronunciation. It is alternatively possible that, due to its constant use (and its never being accepted as a formal term), its pronunciation has remained rigidly in place.
yeah (not comparable)
Note: Many languages have no equivalent of this word; in those cases, the translations given here are for yes.
- ^ “yeah” in The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th edition, Boston, Mass.: Houghton Mifflin, 2000, →ISBN.
- ^ Webster's Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged. 2003.