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“Yea” or “Nay”—Or Is It “Yay”?

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You may already know what “yea” and “nay” mean. But how can you remember the difference between “yea” and “yay”? We’ll cover this and more.

Yea or nay: What does it mean?
“Yea” or “nay” is considered old-fashioned, but is still sometimes used in oral voting.
Quick Summary on “Yea,” “Nay,” and “Yay”

  • Yea (pronounced like yay /jeɪ/) and nay have different uses. They are most commonly used in formal voting. Yea means “yes” or signals and an affirmative vote. Nay means “no” or signals a negative vote.
    • Did you vote yea or nay on the redistricting proposal?

  • Yay is an interjection that expresses “triumph, excitement, or joy.”
    • Yay! Argentina won the World Cup!


“Yea” or “Nay” Meanings

Yea and nay probably aren’t words that you use in your day-to-day vocabulary.

Not unless you work in a field that involves you to partake in voting.

To be straightforward, yea means “yes” and nay means “no.” But there’s a bit more to learn about these words—including familiarizing yourself with a pesky homophone that often gets (incorrectly) used in place of yea.

Want to learn more? If your vote is yea, then keep reading!

Do you know the meaning of yea or nay?
“Yea” and “nay” are often used while voting, but they have other uses too.

What Does “Nay” Mean?

As we’ve already established, nay means no. It’s an adverb that signals denial, refusal, or a negative vote.

Did I agree with the decision? Nay, I did not.
Mr. Bloomberg thought long and hard before he voted nay.
Surprisingly, the majority of the senators said nay.

When used as a noun, nay refers to the person who voted no or the negative vote itself:

The president of the association voted with the nays.
There were more nays than yeas, and therefore the changes will be pushed through.

Nay does have another use, though: to correct what has just been said by replacing a word or phrase with a more accurate one.

I was hungry, nay, starving by the end of the night.
Monroe is the team's most flexible, nay, most agile player.

Lastly, nay also has a homophone: neigh, which as a verb means “to make the sound of a horse,” and as a noun refers to “the cry or sound horses make.”

Charlie likes to neigh and pretend he is a horse.
The mare let out a relieved neigh when I helped with her injured foot.

“Yea” vs. “Yay”: What’s the Difference?

Yea and yay are homophones, meaning they are pronounced exactly the same but have different meanings and spellings.

What Does “Yea” Mean?

Yea means yes. It expresses an affirmative vote.

I voted yea on directing more funds to public schools.
The debate club was split: Half of us voted yea, while the other half voted nay.
Julissa was keen on convincing the council to say yea on the amendment.

Yea has another (much less common) use. Whereas nay is sometimes used to correct what was just said, yea is used to add emphasis to what was just said. In other words, it also means “not only this but also.”

Ms. Moore was the sweetest, yea, the most compassionate and caring person I had ever met.

Yea has one last informal use. It’s sometimes used to mean “to this extent.” For example, if someone is informing someone about a person’s height, they might use their hand to signal how tall that person is and say:

He’s about yea tall.

However, this is an extremely colloquial use that’s not common in formal settings.

What Does “Yay” Mean?

Yay is an interjection—which is a word or phrase that expresses sudden bursts of emotions such as happiness, sadness, anger, shock, etc. Yay conveys joy and excitement.

Yay! I got my driver’s license.
Our mom is coming home today, yay!
Oh yay, we can leave early today.

Both yea and yay rhyme with say, day, and play. So, how can you remember the difference? It’s easy. Yeas almost identical spelling to yeah (which is an informal yes) can serve as a reminder as to what the word means.

Yay and hooray are synonyms and they both end with “–ay.”

To recap:

  • Nay means no.
  • Yea means yes.
  • Yay is used to express excitement (much like hooray).

If you want to write something so good it makes you say yay, make sure to use LanguageTool as your writing assistant. This spelling and grammar checker can help with incorrect use of homophones, supports over 25 languages, and can help rephrase your sentences to better suit your audience.


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