[ yawl ]

pronounInformal, Dialect.
  1. you (used in direct address usually to two or more people, or to one person who represents a family, organization, etc.): Are y’all coming home for the holidays this year? Y’all let me know when you want those coffees warmed up.If we get there before you, we’ll try to save y’all a seat.

Origin of y'all

An Americanism dating back to 1855–60; shortening of you all

usage note For y'all

The pronoun y’all is traditionally associated with Southern American English or African American Vernacular English, and is generally understood to be a plural form of you. In modern Standard American English, the first person pronouns are singular I and plural we; the third person pronouns are singular he, she, or it and plural they. But the second person pronouns are both you in the singular and you in the plural. Different dialects resolve this latter ambiguity with expressions like you guys or you-uns.
In the South, this plural pronoun function is filled by you-all (pronounced [yoo-awl], /yuˈɔl/, [yoo-awl], /ˈyuˌɔl/, or [yawl] /yɔl/ ) and by the fused form y’all (pronounced [yawl] /yɔl/ ). You-all briefly spread in dialectal distribution into the mid-Atlantic and Western United States; however, its growth was overtaken by the regional spread of y’all in the 1990s and 2000s. Y’all is now widely used and less strictly perceived as Southern, except in the Northeast, Upper Midwest, and in California, where its adoption has been limited.
In every dialect where y’all is used, it serves two general functions when contrasted with you. When speakers choose y’all over you, it expresses the plural, and it conveys a friendly informal tone. The plural may indicate two or more people are present, or may be addressed to a single person who is perceived as a representative for a larger group. For example, you might ask a waiter, “Do y’all have onion rings, or just fries?” The y’all in that case is understood as addressed not only to the one waiter, but the cook and everyone else who works at the restaurant. The speaker at a commencement ceremony might say “Dear graduates, you have a bright future” or “Y’all are the heart and soul of this institution.” The choice of you or y’all at different parts of the commencement speech doesn’t communicate singular and plural in this instance (the number of graduates is unchanged). Rather, you is a choice that expresses the formality of the important occasion, while y’all in the same speech shows warmth, community, or solidarity.
There is significant debate about whether y’all can ever be strictly singular (without implying a larger group, association, or network). Such examples are uncommon and judged as ungrammatical by many speakers who otherwise freely use y’all themselves. In the rare instance of singular y’all, it is best understood as a pragmatic choice to communicate friendly solidarity, or to express group membership as a speaker of Southern American English.

Words Nearby y'all

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023