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The Origin of the name "Yankee"

Updated on December 24, 2010

The name"Yankee"

Yankee is the nickname that Americans themselves awarded to the people of Connecticut, and later to all of New England. In the rest of the world that name came to apply to all Americans.

There are a quite few stories about the exact origin of this name.

Janke, Eankke, Yankie

The nicest one comes from the Dutch , as early as 1650. They will tell you that the first name "John " was extremely common with the first English settlers of Connecticut. Now in Dutch, this name translates as "Jan", and its diminutive is "Janneke " or little John. In Dutch dialect, this is pronounced as "Janke ".

Another theory, far less friendly, states that Yankee comes from the Cherokee word "eankke ", which means "cowardly".

Still another plausible explanation comes from the Scottish dictionary. The Scots where often overwhelmed by the smart traders from New England, and so they may have used the Gallic word "yankie ", which means cunning woman...


However it may be, even earlier than 1775, the British mockingly described every American colonist as a "Yankee".

During the American Revolution the Americans proudly adopted this nickname as their own, and the famous "Yankee Doodle" became a patriotic song.

During the Civil War (1861 - 1865), the south always referred to the north as Yankees.

After World War I (1914-1918), this name was spread over Europe and the rest of the world by Parisian newspapers.


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    • John Holden profile image

      John Holden 6 years ago

      Well, you grabbed my interest and left me in the lurch! I ended up at Wikipedia to find the origins of the name "yankee"

    • slusterbubble profile image

      slusterbubble 6 years ago from Florida

      Dear John, I like the Dutch story myself. Mind you, it is just as possible that the English colonists tauntingly called the Dutch "Janke", since the first name "Jan" is certainly just as widespread in the Netherlands...

    • profile image

      Jan de Groot 2 years ago

      Two very common names for boys in the Netherlands are Jan and Kees. In the Dutch language the letter J is pronounced as a Y, hence Jan is pronounced as Yan. When the Dutch settled in the New York area, (originally called New Amsterdam)and since the first names of those settlers were mostly either Yan or Kees, other people referred to them as Yankees.

    • slusterbubble profile image

      slusterbubble 2 years ago from Florida

      Dear Jan, your theory is not only very acceptable, but also seems rather likely.. Undoubtedly, your origins (since your name is de Groot) give you a better insight in Dutch history!

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