September 4, 2013

Case File #013.09.04: YIP

The Middle English verb yippen meant “to peep or chirp like a small bird,” and when it passed into modern English in the fifteenth century, its form was shortened to yip but its meaning remained essentially the same. During the early nineteenth century, however, the word flew further from its fowl beginnings and came to mean “to talk or cry in a shrill manner,” a change that some linguists and etymologists believe took place because the orthographical and phonological similarities between yip and yap caused English speakers to confuse the two words. The current sense of the verb yip, “to bark or yelp sharply, briskly, and often continuously,” first appeared in American author Kate Douglas Wiggin's novella The Diary of a Goose Girl in 1902, and the derivative noun sense of “a sharp, high-pitched bark or yelp” came into use around 1910.

©2013 Michael R. Gates

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