Posted: 01 December 2017 08:17 AM   [ Ignore ]
Total Posts:  3119
Joined  2007-01-30

I was wondering how this term for yes came to be used in the navy and how long that had been so. Surprisingly it’s of unknown origin according to OED, appeared suddenly about 1575 and was exceedingly common by about 1600. Here’s the rest of the etymology from OED and the earliest cite.

The suggestion that it is the same as ay adv. ‘ever, always,’ seems set aside by the fact that it was at first always written I , a spelling never found with ay adv. But it may have been a dialect form of that word, from some dialect in which it had passed through the senses of always , in all cases , to by all means , certainly , yes (compare aye but , in sense A. 2b; and the history of algate adv.), and so have been taken in literary English for a different word. It is less easy to see in it a phonetic variant or dialect form of ya ‘yea, yes.’ Spelt both aye and ay : the former is in accordance with parliamentary usage, and better on every ground. Aye and eye (which many identify in pronunciation, and which differ at most only in the ‘broader’ or more back sound of aye ), are analogous diphthongal words usefully distinguished by their final e from the regular pronunciation of -ay , -ey , in bay , day , gay , hay , etc., and bey , dey , grey , they , convey , etc.: see ay adv.

1576 G. Wapull Tyde taryeth no Man sig. B.i If you say I syr, we will not say no.

No mention of the Scottish aye but surely they’re related? In the UK the word is used mainly in Parliament and the Royal Navy. I know the US navy also uses the word, is it also used in Congress?

Posted: 01 December 2017 09:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
Total Posts:  65
Joined  2015-05-27

The House uses aye and no for voice votes only. Recorded votes in the House and all votes in the Senate use use yea and nay. The Texas Legislature uses aye and nay.

That’s the official version, but I have heard plain old no uttered on radio/tv. they do seem to stick with archaic forms for the affirmative though.

Posted: 01 December 2017 06:12 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
Total Posts:  4079
Joined  2007-02-26


Aye, there was a time when “aye” in this sense was common in southern England. Shakespeare (who was writing from around 1588 until 1616) used “aye” more than twice as often as he used “yes” or similar forms.

At some point in the four centuries since then, “yes” became the dominant form in most of Great Britain, but is still used in some parts of Northern England and Scotland.

So I’m not sure what you mean by:

No mention of the Scottish aye but surely they’re related?

The “aye” meaning yes used by English/Scots speakers in Scotland is the same word, not a different one, and the form did not originate in Scotland.

Posted: 01 December 2017 07:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
Total Posts:  360
Joined  2007-02-24

From Merriam-Webster:

perhaps from Middle English ye, yie

[ Edited: 01 December 2017 07:38 PM by Eyehawk ]
Posted: 02 December 2017 06:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
Total Posts:  4663
Joined  2007-01-29

Surprisingly it’s of unknown origin according to OED

That is from the mid-1880s (when it was published—god knows when it was written) and should be regarded as irrelevant today.  I don’t mean it’s necessarily wrong, any more than the explanation of a physical phenomenon given in a Victorian textbook is necessarily wrong, but that’s not the first place you’d look for it, and an unrevised OED entry should not be where you look for etymologies.  I always go to AHD first.

Posted: 02 December 2017 06:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
Total Posts:  6585
Joined  2007-01-03

Bear in mind the OED entry is over 130 years old. American Heritage agrees with it though, only without such detail.

Posted: 02 December 2017 12:52 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
Total Posts:  1623
Joined  2007-01-29

It’s still very common in the north of England and Scotland - I sometimes use it.

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