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The term Yankee (sometimes shortened to "Yank") has a few interrelated meanings, usually referring to someone either of general United States origin or, more specifically within the States, to people originating in New England, where application of the term is largely restricted to descendants of the English settlers of the region.[1]

The meaning of "Yankee" has varied over time. In the 18th century, it referred to residents of New England descended from the original English settlers of the region (Mark Twain, in the following century, used the word in this sense in his novel, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, published in 1889). As early as the 1770s, Britons applied the term to any person from what became the United States. In the 19th century, Americans in the southern United States employed the word in reference to Americans from the northern United States (though not to recent immigrants from Europe; thus a visitor to Richmond, Virginia, in 1818 commented, "The enterprising people are mostly strangers; Scotch, Irish, and especially New England men, or Yankees, as they are called").[2]

Outside the country, "Yankee" or "Yank" is slang for anyone from the United States. It is especially popular among Britons, and may sometimes be considered offensive, though it is by no means universally used pejoratively.


Origins and history of the word

Early usage

The origins of the term are uncertain, and speculation abounds. In 1758, British General James Wolfe made the earliest recorded use of the word Yankee to refer to people from what was to become the United States, referring to the New England soldiers under his command as Yankees: "I can afford you two companies of Yankees, and the more because they are better for ranging and scouting than either work or vigilance."[3] Later British use of the word often was derogatory, as in a cartoon of 1775 ridiculing "Yankee" soldiers.[3] New Englanders themselves employed the word in a neutral sense: the "Pennamite-Yankee War", for example, was the name given to a series of clashes in 1769 over land titles in Pennsylvania, in which the "Yankees" were the Connecticut claimants.

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