< Previous | Next >


Senior Member
Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
I just sent a PM with the subject line "Yikes!" and it occurred to me that this is a very strange word. Merriam-Webster online says:
Pronunciation: \ˈyīks\
Etymology; probably alteration of yoicks
Date:1957 —used to express fear or astonishment
Yoicks? Curiouser and curiouser. Can anyone shed some light on this word: origins, usage, regional variants...

Context and sample sentence? Sure. "A few weeks ago I found a black tarantula in my kitchen sink. Yikes!"

Thanks. :)
  • cycloneviv

    Senior Member
    English - Australia
    "Yoicks" makes me think of hunting terminology. In particular, one of Bertie Wooster's aunts used to say things like "Yoicks!", "Forrard!" and "Tally Ho!"

    What it means exactly, I have no idea!

    Oh, ah - here is an explanation:

    yoicks fox-hunting cry. XVIII. contemp. with yoaks and hoicks (also hoick, hoik XVII), which appears to be a var. of earlier hike (XVI).


    Apparently it is used to urge the dogs on.

    And here's a relevant Wodehouse quotation:

    'What was that she said, Jeeves?'
    'Yoicks, sir, if I am not mistaken. It seemed to me that Madam also added Tally-ho, Gone away and Hark forrard.'
    'I suppose members of the Quorn and the Pytchley are saying that sort of thing all the time.'

    (from Much Obliged Jeeves)

    The Quorn and the Pytchley:

    - the Quorn is a very old fox hunt, founded in 1696 and named after the village of Quorn in Leicestershire. The Pytchley operates on the Leicestershire and Northamptonshire border and also dates from the 17th century.

    (Thanks to http://www.blandings.org.uk/book/Jeeves_Feudal_notes.htm)

    EDIT: I submitted this post just before retiring to bed last night and failed to notice that I didn't address your question about "Yikes!" at all. I hope this history/usage of "Yoicks!" is of some use and not too far off-topic! :eek:
    Last edited:


    Senior Member
    English English
    Here's what The Cassell Dictionary of Slang has to say:
    yikes! / yipe! / yipes! excl. [1960s+] an excl. of surprise or shock [? link to S(tandard) E(nglish) yoicks! or crikey!]
    I can't remember the last time I heard someone say Yipes! rather than Yikes!

    If Cassell's dating is correct, the word may have been as fresh as paint when Scooby Doo first appeared (40 years ago this month!)


    Senior Member
    Cassell missed a couple of earlier cites:

    "Skylarking" by JAMES COPP, _Los Angeles Times_; Jul 5, 1953; sec III,
    pg. 10 col 5
    "His only comment was, "Yikes -- get in quick! . . . " "

    Oakland [Calif.] Tribune_, 1953-08-16 p. M-4, col. 5.
    " "Bet-Betty, there's your mother." "Huh? Where? Yikes! Sh-sh, hide the cat." "

    source: http://listserv.linguistlist.org/cgi-bin/wa?A2=ind0601C&L=ADS-L&P=R6027

    A much earlier one from the same source:

    "Patter," _The Coe College Cosmos_, Cedar Rapids, IA. 1941-11-19 p. 2
    col 3.
    "And if you can't think of anything else to be grateful for, just be
    thankful you're not a turkey. It can't be too bad, though; they get the
    axe and we get the bird. Yikes!"


    Senior Member
    Italian, Italy
    Hello all,

    Can 'yikes' be used as an exclamation, as for example the Italian << deleted >>?

    I keep on associating it with 'ew', which is what you'd say in front of something disgusting. I have heard many English speaking people using 'yikes' to comment on disgusting things. Is this incorrect?

    Many thanks!

    Last edited by a moderator:


    Senior Member
    Cool, thanks! So it would be an exclamation to express what, for example?
    An unpleasant surprise.
    Yikes! This is an electric fence.
    Yikes! It's not a fly, it's a wasp.
    Yikes! I thought the lights were still on green.

    It seems that it is not used in AuE; my son has heard it only from books and films.
    < Previous | Next >