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What does ‘yeet’ mean, and how did it become a meme?

Yeet in the yeet now?

Apr 19, 2021, 12:37 pm*

Internet Culture

 

Stacey Ritzen

Every now and then, a new word enters into the lexicon of the internet, seemingly from out of nowhere and without rhyme or reason. One notable example is “yeet,” which has been growing in popularity among young people—particularly on social sites like Twitter and Reddit—over the past few years. But… what exactly does yeet mean? And where did it come from?

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The early origins of ‘yeet’

The short answer is that yeet is a flexible term that is often, but not always, used as an exclamation. In 2008, an Urban Dictionary user described the word as simply a way to express excitement.

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The entry elaborated that it could be used in basketball, “when someone has shot a three-pointer that they are sure will go in the hoop,” or, even more colorfully “as one ejaculates.”

The term later gained popularity in February of 2014, thanks to a stylized dance of the same name that first originated on Vine and YouTube. Know Your Meme characterized the dance move as “dipping one’s shoulder in rhythmic steps with both hands out in front and knees bent as if the performer is riding a bicycle.”

However, it seems uncertain where the yeet dance originated. The first recorded instance is in February of 2014, uploaded to YouTube by user Milik Fullilove, as seen below.

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From there, others uploaded other takes and tutorials on how to do the dance. Though, it didn’t truly go viral until the following month when a short video featuring a boy nicknamed “Lil Meatball” exploded on Vine, where it was viewed in over 40 million loops.

As the video of Lil Meatball went on to inspire various memes, eventually, “yeet” evolved into a phenomenon of its own.

Yeet usage and spread

When the term began to see a viral resurgence in the summer of 2018, the top definition on Urban Dictionary ambiguously described yeet as a “beautiful and commonly misused word.”

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As yeet continued to cement in our cultural lexicon, however, the meaning evolved into what most of us are familiar with today. As of 2021, Urban Dictionary’s top definition now states, “to discard an item at a high velocity,” with the following example used in context:

“Alex finishes his soda and proceeds to yeet his empty can into a trash bin.”

“Alex: [while throwing the can]: ‘YEET!'”

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Beyond being used as an exclamation while throwing something, yeet can also be used as an affirmative expression. In some contexts, it can be used in place of the words yes or yeah, but “if you want people to know you’re fun and hip.”

Similarly to the word “Smurf” (or “jawn,” for those from the Philly area), yeet can also take on any number of uses as a noun or a verb.

Likewise, the term can also apparently be used to describe someone who has experienced dramatic defeat in situations such as playing a sport or video game. The possibilities truly are endless!

Yeet memes

For those still confused, thankfully, there are no shortage of examples of people using the word in a variety of ways to help put things in context.

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With any luck, that should have cleared things up. Now, yeet off into the world, with your newfound enlightenment.

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*First Published: Sep 13, 2018, 6:00 am