a late-developing letter in English. Called ipsilon in German, upsilon in Greek, the English name is of obscure origin. The sound at the beginning of yard, yes, yield, etc. is from Old English words with initial g- as in got and y- as in yet, which were considered the same sound and often transcribed as Ȝ, known as yogh. The system was altered by French scribes, who brought over the continental use of -g- and from the early 1200s used -y- and sometimes -gh- to replace Ȝ. The French also tended to substitute -y- for -i-, especially before -u-, -n-, or -m-, or at the end of words, to avoid confusion in reading (see U), might also partly explain this tendency in Middle English. As short for YMCA, etc., by 1915.
1683, a name applied disparagingly by Dutch settlers in New Amsterdam (New York) to English colonists in neighboring Connecticut. It may be from Dutch Janke, literally "Little John," diminutive of common personal name Jan; or it may be from Jan Kes familiar form of "John Cornelius," or perhaps an alteration of Jan Kees, dialectal variant of Jan Kaas, literally "John Cheese," the generic nickname the Flemings used for Dutchmen.
[I]t is to be noted that it is common to name a droll fellow, regarded as typical of his country, after some favorite article of food, as E[nglish] Jack-pudding, G[erman] Hanswurst ("Jack Sausage"), F[rench] Jean Farine ("Jack Flour"). [Century Dictionary, 1902, entry for "macaroni"]
Originally it seems to have been applied insultingly to the Dutch, especially freebooters, before they turned around and slapped it on the English. A less-likely theory (attested by 1832) is that it represents some southern New England Algonquian language mangling of English. In English a term of contempt (1750s) before its use as a general term for "native of New England" (1765); during the American Revolution it became a disparaging British word for all American natives or inhabitants. Contrasted with southerner by 1828. Shortened form Yank in reference to "an American" first recorded 1778. Latin-American form Yanqui attested in English by 1914 (in Mexican Spanish by 1835).
The rule observed in this country is, that the man who receives that name [Yankee] must come from some part north of him who gives it. To compensate us for giving each other nicknames, John Bull "lumps us all together," and calls us all Yankees. ["Who is a Yankee?" Massachusetts Spy, June 6, 1827]
1968, acronym from fictitious "Youth International Party," modeled on hippie.
On December 31, 1967, Abbie [Hoffman], Jerry [Rubin], Paul Krassner, Dick Gregory, and friends decided to pronounce themselves the Yippies. (The name came first, then the acronym that would satisfy literal-minded reporters: Youth International Party.) [Todd Gitlin, "The Sixties," 1987, p.235]
city in northern England, Old English Eoforwic, earlier Eborakon (c. 150), an ancient Celtic name, probably meaning "Yew-Tree Estate," but Eburos may also be a personal name. Related: Yorkist; Yorkish; Yorker. Yorkshire pudding is recorded from 1747; Yorkshire terrier first attested 1872; short form Yorkie is from 1950.
Al þe longage of þe Norþhumbres, and specialych at Õork, ys so scharp, slyttyng, and frotyng, and vnschape, þat we souþeron men may þat longage vnneþe vndurstonde. [Ranulph Higden’s "Polychronicon," mid-14c., John Trevisa's translation, 1380s]