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Every now and then, a new word enters into the lexicon of the internet, seemingly from out of nowhere and without rhyme or reason. The latest example is “yeet,” which has been growing in popularity among young people on social sites like Twitter and Reddit. But what…is yeet? What does yeet mean? And where did it come from? That’s what we’ve set out to discover.
What does yeet mean?
The short yeet definition is that it’s a flexible term that is often—but not always—used as an exclamation. Way back in 2008, an Urban Dictionary user said the yeet meaning is simply a way to express excitement: “Especially used in basketball when someone has shot a three-pointer that they are sure will go in the hoop,” Or, used in a colorful yet less wholesome context: “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, which was characterized 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,” according to Know Your Meme.
No one is exactly certain where the yeet dance originated. However, the first recorded instance is in February of 2014, uploaded to YouTube by user Milik Fullilove, as seen below.
From there, others uploaded other takes and tutorials on how to do the dance, but 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 has was viewed in over 40 million loops.
The video of Lil Meatball went on to inspire various memes, and eventually, “yeet” evolved into a phenomenon of its own.
Now, much like the word “Smurf” (or “jawn,” for those of us cats from the Philly area), yeet can take on any number of uses as a noun or a verb, typically as a way to express a sudden or forceful motion, such as throwing an object long distance. 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.
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Yeet definition and etymology
According to the current Urban Dictionary top definition, yeet is a “beautiful and commonly misused word.” The author also notes that the proper tenses of yeet are “will yeet” in the future, “yeeting” in the present, and “yote” in the past, and that to replace “yote” with “yeeted” is a prime example of poor grammar, and will “make you sound like a baby or a moron.” (Perhaps people enjoyed that takedown of “yeeted,” though, the term is popping up on the internet a lot.)
In addition to its original purpose of an exclamation, yeet can also be used as an affirmative expression replacing the words yes or yeah, but only “if you want people to know you’re fun and hip.”
Still confused? You’re likely not alone. Thankfully, there are plenty of recent examples on Twitter of people using the word in a variety of ways to help put things in context.
always down for a good YEET— Pluckers Wing Bar (@Pluckers) September 12, 2018
Yeet! https://t.co/No7uz3PSc0— Top Shelf (@_letusslay) September 12, 2018
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On the r/dankmemes subreddit, yeet has appeared in several recent posts.
With any luck, yeet should have cleared things up. Now, go off into the world, with your newfound enlightenment. YEET.
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Stacey Ritzen is a reporter and editor based in West Philadelphia with over 10 years' experience covering pop culture, web culture, entertainment, and news. You can follow her on Twitter @staceyritzen.