There are often drastic differences between spoken and written language. Spoken language is usually less formal—it incorporates slang, blends, and substitutions in ways that written language doesn’t or sometimes can’t. However, in the long run, the way a language is written often evolves to better suit the way it is spoken.
But it can be difficult to depict these spoken idiosyncrasies in written form. Writers sometimes end up with many similar words, which confuse beginning writers and English language learners.
Yeah and yea are two of these confusing words. They look nearly identical—with only one letter’s difference between them—but they sound and function completely different. Read on to find out whether you should use yea or yeah in your writing.
What is the Difference Between Yea and Yeah?
In this article, I’ll compare yea vs. yeah. I will go over the definitions of each word and use each word in a sentence to further illustrate its meaning. Plus, I will reveal a useful memory trick to remember which word belongs where.
When to Use Yea
What does yea mean? Yea is an expression of assent; a yes vote. It rhymes with its opposite, the no vote nay. Yea is rarely used outside of this context. Here are some examples.
- “Shall we go to the pool today, yea or nay?”
- When the speaker called for a voice vote, every representative responded with “yea!”
- The spectacle Brazilians have been waiting for begins on Sunday. That’s when some 513 members of congress will go before a podium and say yea or nay to an impeachment petition. –Forbes
How do you spell yay? Yea has a homophone, yay, which can be a joyous proclamation or a demonstration of size. Homophones sound the same, but differ in meaning. Yay and yea are pronounced the same (they both rhyme with nay) but are used differently. Here are examples of the correct usage of yay.
- “Yay, a puppy!” Krista yelled.
- “The fish was yay big,” Alan lied.
When to Use Yeah
What does yeah mean? Yeah is a simple affirmative, like yes. It can be used like this:
- “Yeah, I ate the pizza,” Nomar admitted.
- So, yeah, turbochargers. Trouble is, turbos sap energy from the engine’s exhaust-gas stream, which means less sound pressure, less of an aural presence. In a word: volume. –The Wall Street Journal
Yeah came to prominence relatively recently. It is informal, and should be avoided in favor of yes in academic or professional writing.
Trick to Remember the Difference
If you still don’t think you can keep track of these two words, here is a helpful trick to remember yeah vs. yea.
Yea is primarily used in the context of an affirmative vote. You can remember to save yea for these situations by keeping in mind that neither yea nor the word democracy contain an H.
Yeah does contain an H, and is used as a casual form of the simple affirmative yes.
Yay is an exclamation of happiness or a measure of size.
Is it yea or yeah? It can be tempting to use yea when you really mean yeah. There is only one letter’s difference between these two words, and they look like they should sound the same.
Regardless, yeah and yea mean different things. Yea is an affirmative vote. Yeah is casual form of yes. Yay, a homophone of yea, is an exclamation that signals joy or happiness.
You can remember that neither yea or democracy have the letter H, and both are related to voting. This trick should help you remember whether to use yeah or yea in your writing, depending on the context. If you still need a refresher, you can always refer back to this article.
- Yea is a signal of affirmation for a yes vote.
- Yeah is an informal affirmative, similar to yes.
- Yay is an exclamation.