The term “Yankee” and its contracted form “Yank” have several interrelated meanings, all referring to people from the United States. Its various senses depend on the scope of context. Most broadly:
- Outside the United States, “Yank” is used informally to refer to any American, including Southerners.
- Within the United States, it usually refers to people from the north, largely those from the northeast, but especially those with New England cultural ties, such as descendants from colonial New England settlers, wherever they live. Its sense is more cultural than literally geographic. The speech dialect of New England is called “Yankee” or “Yankee dialect.” Within New England itself, the term “Yankee” refers specifically to old-stock New Englanders of English descent.
- Within Southern American English, “Yankee” refers to Northerners, or those from the regions of the Union side of the American Civil War.
The informal British and Irish English “Yank” is especially popular among Britons and Australians and sometimes carries pejorative overtones. The Southern American English “Yankee” is typically uncontracted and at least mildly pejorative, although less vehemently so as time passes from the American Civil War.
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