Yoke vs. Yolk: What’s the Difference?

English contains many words that sound the same but have different meanings. These words are called homophones.

While yoke and yolk are not exact homophones, they may sound similar enough in casual speech to confuse language learners or even experienced writers. But there is a simple way to decide if yoke or yolk is correct, if you consider the context in which the word will be used.

What is the Difference Between Yoke and Yolk?

In this article, I will compare yoke vs. yolk. I will use each word in an example sentence to illustrate its use. Plus, at the end, I will also show you a useful trick for deciding whether to use yoke or yolk in your writing.

When to Use Yoke

yolk versus yokeWhat does yoke mean? Yoke can be a noun or a verb.

As a noun, yoke refers to a device with which multiple livestock are harnessed together to pull something. It also has a more general sense as something that keeps someone or something harnessed.

A nontraditional, metaphorical use example,

  • Projections — free from the yoke of the past — have Strasburg fulfilling even the highest of expectations, ending the season 19-3 with a 2.71 ERA, striking out 225 batters over 188 innings. –The Washington Post

As a verb, in its most traditional sense, yoke refers to the use of such a device, e.g., to harness two livestock together.

  • If you yoke the two donkeys together, they can pull the plow.

As with the noun form, it can be used more metaphorically as well. It can also be conjugated into other tenses by dropping the E and adding -ed or -ing.

For example,

  • The farmer yoked his oxen and plowed his field.
  • “Equally yoked” is a metaphor used in some traditional religious wedding ceremonies.

When to Use Yolk

Definition of yoke definition of yolk definitionWhat does yolk mean? Yolk is a noun and is defined as the yellow part of an egg.

For example,

  • For breakfast, Daniel likes his yolks runny, but Marissa likes her yolks hard.
  • All of the cholesterol in an egg is contained within the yolk.
  • Steak tartare. A classic in Parisian brasseries, this dish of chopped, raw beef is served with onions, capers and egg yolk — plus French fries and green salad. –USA Today

Unlike yoke, yolk is never a verb. You can separate egg yolks, as instructed by some recipes, but you cannot yolk an egg like you can milk a cow. Neither can you yolk something to something else the way you could yoke two animals together.

Yolk is only ever a noun.

Trick to Remember the Difference

Define yolk and define yokeHere is a helpful trick to remember yolk vs. yoke in your writing.

If the word in your sentence is a verb, it must be yoke. Yolk is never a verb.

If the word is a noun, then you should consider your context. If you’re talking about the yellow center of an egg, you mean yolk. Remember that this part of the egg contains a high amount of cholesterol. Cholesterol and yolk both contain the letter L.

By keeping in mind the L that cholesterol and yolk share, you can remember to reserve yolk for situations when you are writing about eggs.

Summary

Is it yoke or yolk? Yoke and yolk are not quite homophones, but many people pronounce them similarly. Nonetheless, they have separate meanings and their usage cases never overlap.

  • Yoke deals with the joining together of two things.
  • Yolk is the center of an egg.

By remembering that the yolk of an egg contains all of the egg’s cholesterol, you can use the shared L in yolk and cholesterol to decide whether yolk or yoke is appropriate for your writing, given the context.