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For other uses, see Yo (disambiguation).

Yo is an English slang interjection,[1] commonly associated with American English. It was popularized after being used commonly in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania since the 1940s.[2]

Although often used as a greeting, yo may come at the end of a sentence, often to direct focus onto a particular individual or group or to gain the attention of another individual or group. It may specify that a certain statement that had been uttered is more important, or may just be an "attention grabber".

Etymology and history[edit]

The interjection yo was first used in Middle English.[3] The Middle English term originated from Old English ġēa ("yes")[citation needed] In addition to yo, it was also sometimes written io.[4]

Though the term had some use in the 15th and 16th centuries, its current popularity has largely grown out of its use in Philadelphia's Italian immigrant population. During the mid-1940s, Philadelphia's adjacent Italian and African-American neighborhoods experienced significant growth, resulting in a mingling of the two cultures and a subsequent fusing of speech patterns.

From the late twentieth century it frequently appeared in hip hop music and became associated with African American Vernacular English, as seen in the title Yo! MTV Raps, a popular American television hip-hop music program in the 1990s.

Notable uses[edit]

A frequent example of the expression is fictional Philadelphian Rocky Balboa, where the word is used throughout all of the Rocky films, and is part of the iconic line, "Yo, Adrian, I did it!", which was ranked 80th in the AFI's list of 100 best movie quotes.

The phrase "Yo, Blair. What are you doing?" was an informal[5] greeting that United States President George W. Bush gave to British Prime Minister Tony Blair during the G8 summit in Saint Petersburg, Russia, on 17 July 2006.

Other uses[edit]


  1. ^ "Yo - Define Yo at Dictionary.com". Dictionary.com. Retrieved 7 November 2014. 
  2. ^ Dalzell, Tom (1996). Flappers 2 Rappers: American Youth Slang. Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam Webster. ISBN 0-87779-612-2. 
  3. ^ "yo: definition of yo in Oxford dictionary (British & World English)". Retrieved 7 November 2014. 
  4. ^ Yo, Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary
  5. ^ Susie Dent (2007) The Language Report: English on the move 2000–2007
  6. ^ "Language Log". Retrieved 7 November 2014. 
  7. ^ "Punch, or the London Charivari, Volume 98, May 24, 1890 by Various". gutenberg.org. Retrieved 18 November 2014.  (search for the line "yeo-ho")