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[yoh-yoh] /ˈyoʊ yoʊ/
noun, plural yo-yos.
a spoollike toy consisting of two thick wooden, plastic, or metal disks connected by a dowel pin in the center to which a string is attached, one end being looped around the player's finger so that the toy can be spun out and reeled in by wrist motion.
something that fluctuates or moves up and down, especially suddenly or repeatedly.
Slang. a stupid, foolish, or incompetent person.
Informal. moving up and down or back and forth; fluctuating; vacillating:
yo-yo prices; a yo-yo foreign policy.
verb (used without object)
Informal. to move up and down or back and forth; fluctuate or vacillate:
Mortgage rates are still yo-yoing.
verb (used with object)
Informal. to cause to yo-yo.
Origin of yo-yo
earlier, a U.S. trademark for such a toy (1932); recorded in 1915 as the name of a Philippine toy; of undetermined orig. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for yo-yo
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The ships that raided them were the Enterprise and the yo-yo.

    Space Viking Henry Beam Piper
  • Then the yo-yo blew up, very quietly, as things do where there is no air to carry shock-and sound-waves, but very brilliantly.

    Space Viking Henry Beam Piper
  • That's pretty hard to keep track of, because I was like a yo-yo, back and forth from one parent to the other.

    Warren Commission (8 of 26): Hearings Vol. VIII (of 15) The President's Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy
British Dictionary definitions for yo-yo


noun (pl) -yos
a toy consisting of a spool attached to a string, the end of which is held while it is repeatedly spun out and reeled in
(US & Canadian, slang) a stupid person, esp one who is easily manipulated
verb (intransitive) yo-yos, yo-yoing, yo-yoed
(informal) to change repeatedly from one position to another; fluctuate
(informal) changing repeatedly; fluctuating
Word Origin
from Filipino yo yo, come come, a weapon consisting of a spindle attached to a thong
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
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Word Origin and History for yo-yo

1915, apparently from a language of the Philippines. Registered as a trademark in Vancouver, Canada, in 1932, the year the first craze for them began (subsequent fads 1950s, 1970s, 1998). The toy itself is much older and was earlier known as bandalore (1824). Figurative sense of any "up-and-down movement" is first recorded 1932. Meaning "stupid person" is recorded from 1970. The verb in the figurative sense is attested from 1967.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for yo-yo



  1. A vacillating person; one who has no firm convictions: Feldstein's sudden turnaround makes the president look like a yo-yo (1958+)
  2. A stupid and obnoxious person; jerk, nerd: Some yo-yo yells ''What happened, you bum?'' (1970+ Teenagers)
The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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