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Y, y

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noun, plural Y's or Ys, y's or ys.
  1. the 25th letter of the English alphabet, a semivowel.
  2. any spoken sound represented by the letter Y or y, as in yet, city, or rhythm.
  3. something having the shape of a Y.
  4. a written or printed representation of the letter Y or y.
  5. a device, as a printer's type, for reproducing the letter Y or y.


Symbol, Mathematics.
  1. an unknown quantity.
  2. (in Cartesian coordinates) the y-axis.


  1. yen1(def 1).


  1. the Y, Informal. the YMCA, YWCA, YMHA, or YWHA.


  1. the 25th in order or in a series, or, when I is omitted, the 24th.
  2. (sometimes lowercase) the medieval Roman numeral for 150.Compare Roman numerals.
  3. (sometimes lowercase) Electricity. admittance.
  4. Chemistry. yttrium.
  5. Biochemistry. tyrosine.


  1. a prefix occurring in certain obsolete words (ywis) and especially in archaic past participles: yclad.
Also i-.

Origin of y-

Middle English y-, i- (reduced variant a-), Old English ge-, prefix with perfective, intensifying, or collective force; cognate with Old Frisian, Old Saxon ge-, gi-, Gothic ga-, German ge-; compare perhaps Latin com- com-


  1. a native English suffix of adjectives meaning “characterized by or inclined to” the substance or action of the word or stem to which the suffix is attached: juicy; grouchy; rumbly; dreamy. Sometimes used to mean “allowing, fostering, or bringing about” the specified action: sippy.
Also -ey1.

Origin of -y1

Old English -ig; cognate with German -ig; compare perhaps Latin -icus, Greek -ikos


  1. a noun-forming suffix with a variety of functions in contemporary English, added to monosyllabic bases to create words that are almost always informal. Its earliest use, probably still productive, was to form endearing or familiar names or common nouns from personal names, other nouns, and adjectives (Billy; Susie; birdie; doggie; granny; sweetie; tummy). The hypocoristic feature is absent in recent coinages, however, which are simply informal and sometimes pejorative (boonies; cabby; groupie; hippy; looie; Okie; preemie; preppy; rookie). Another function of -y2 (-ie) is to form from adjectives nouns that denote exemplary or extreme instances of the quality named by the adjective (baddie; biggie; cheapie; toughie), sometimes focusing on a restricted, usually unfavorable sense of the adjective (sharpie; sickie; whitey). A few words in which the informal character of -y2 (-ie) has been lost are now standard in formal written English (goalie; movie).
Also -ie.
Compare -o, -sy.

Origin of -y2

late Middle English (Scots), orig. in names; of uncertain origin; baby and puppy, now felt as having this suffix, may be of different derivation


  1. a suffix of various origins used in the formation of action nouns from verbs (inquiry), also found in other abstract nouns: carpentry; infamy.

Origin of -y3

representing Latin -ia, -ium; Greek -ia, -eia, -ion; French -ie; German -ie


  1. yard; yards.
  2. year; years.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for y

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • Cost me thirteen dollars to repair one; vulcanize the tire, y'see.

  • You is on'y a half-witted chance-child,' says he, 'but I loves you like a brother.'

  • "I can't find anything in Y to finish this up with," he said at last.

  • She was older 'n we were, an' on'y a step-sister, arter all.

    Tiverton Tales

    Alice Brown

  • Better that he had been still silent, than speak that dubious, indecisive "Y—es."

    The Channings

    Mrs. Henry Wood

British Dictionary definitions for y



noun plural y's, Y's or Ys
  1. the 25th letter of the modern English alphabet
  2. a speech sound represented by this letter, in English usually a semivowel, as in yawn, or a vowel, as in symbol or shy
    1. something shaped like a Y
    2. (in combination)a Y-cross


symbol for
  1. the y- axis or a coordinate measured along the y- axis in a Cartesian coordinate system
  2. an algebraic variable


symbol for
  1. any unknown, unspecified, or variable factor, number, person, or thing
  2. chem yttrium
  3. currency
    1. yen
    2. yuan


abbreviation for
  1. year


abbreviation for
  1. YMCA or YWCA



suffix forming adjectives
  1. (from nouns) characterized by; consisting of; filled with; relating to; resemblingsunny; sandy; smoky; classy
  2. (from verbs) tending to; acting or existing as specifiedleaky; shiny

Word Origin

from Old English -ig, -ǣg


-ie or -ey

suffix informal
  1. denoting smallness and expressing affection and familiaritya doggy; a granny; Jamie
  2. a person or thing concerned with or characterized by beinga groupie; a fatty

Word Origin

C14: from Scottish -ie, -y, familiar suffix occurring originally in names, as in Jamie (James)


suffix forming nouns
  1. (from verbs) indicating the act of doing what is indicated by the verbal elementinquiry
  2. (esp with combining forms of Greek, Latin, or French origin) indicating state, condition, or qualitygeography; jealousy

Word Origin

from Old French -ie, from Latin -ia
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for y


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 a character that looks something like 3 (but with a flat top and lower on the line of text), 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 3. There's a good, in-depth discussion of yogh here. As short for YMCA, YWCA, YMHA first recorded 1915.


perfective prefix, in y-clept, etc.; a deliberate archaism, introduced by Spenser and his imitators, representing an authentic Middle English prefix, from Old English ge-, originally meaning "with, together" but later a completive or perfective element, from Proto-Germanic *ga-. It is still living in German and Dutch ge-, and survives, disguised, in some English words (e.g. alike, aware, handiwork).



suffix in pet proper names (e.g. Johnny, Kitty), first recorded in Scottish, c.1400; became frequent in English 15c.-16c. Extension to surnames seems to date from c.1940. Use with common nouns seems to have begun in Scottish with laddie (1546) and become popular in English due to Burns' poems, but the same formation appears to be represented much earlier in baby and puppy.



noun suffix, in army, city, country, etc., from Old French -e, Latin -atus, -atum, pp. suffix of verbs of the first conjugation. In victory, history, etc. it represents Latin -ia, Greek -ia.



adjective suffix, "full of or characterized by," from Old English -ig, from Proto-Germanic *-iga (cf. German -ig), cognate with Greek -ikos, Latin -icus.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

y in Medicine


  1. The symbol for the elementyttrium

y in Science


  1. The symbol for yttrium.


  1. A silvery metallic element found in the same ores as elements of the lanthanide series. Yttrium is used to strengthen magnesium and aluminum alloys, to provide the red color in color televisions, and as a component of various optical and electronic devices. Atomic number 39; atomic weight 88.906; melting point 1,522°C; boiling point 3,338°C; specific gravity 4.45 (25°C); valence 3. See Periodic Table.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.