Grammar

A New Definition for the Word Y’all Just Made the Dictionary

123RF

Some Southerners might feel a great deal of pride knowing an online dictionary just added the contraction ‘y’all’ to its pages.

Dictionary.com just added 300 words to its online dictionary. One of the words it added is the Southern contraction y’all. But it’s not the definition you probably expect.

You spell the word with the apostrophe after the Y, not after the A. Merriam-Webster, which included the word in its dictionary a long time ago, defines it as a “chiefly Southern” word. It means, as I’m sure you must know, “you all.”

The Online Etymology Dictionary traces the origin of words in our language. It says the word has been around since 1879.

So if the word first appeared more than 140 years ago, why is another dictionary only now adding it?

It turns out there’s a new definition of the word that seems to be gaining in popularity.

The word seems to have found a new appeal among younger users. These younger folks use the word in place of a phrase they used to use: “you guys.” Some use that phrase even if the “guys” happen to be a mix of male and female or even only female.

But in the age of gender awareness and inclusivity, the lack of gender implication in a word that means “you all” rather than a phrase like “you guys” suddenly makes it more popular.

So the little Southern word now has a new appeal to a younger generation.

Who would have thought?

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 30 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.