'Yeah' vs 'Yea' vs 'Yay': Which is Correct?

By Carly Forsaith, updated on February 15, 2023

'Yeah' vs 'yea' vs 'yay': three words that say similar things. Or do they? What's the meaning of each word, and when should you use them? That's what we're here to find out.

In short, 'yeah' is slang for 'yes,' 'yea' is an old-fashioned word for 'yes,' and 'yay' conveys excitement.

'Yeah' vs 'Yea' vs 'Yay': Which Should You Say?

These three words look similar and are used to convey similar thoughts, so it can be confusing to know which one to use. The good news is they are all correct. You just need to know which context to use them in.

What Does 'Yeah' Mean?

'Yeah' is a slang word for 'yes.' You can use it in informal contexts and mostly in conversation. It would only pop up in written English if you're writing a text message to a friend or are engaged in a casual conversation.

For example:

Yeah, why not, that sounds good.

'Yeah' can also be used sarcastically, like this:

Yeah, sure thing Brad.

Or even, confusingly, to mean the opposite:

Yeah, I'm not really into that idea.

In addition to 'yeah,' there are many other slang words for 'yes.' Some of these include:

  • Yah
  • Yep
  • Yup
  • Hell yes
  • Sure

What Does 'Yea' Mean?

'Yea' is a somewhat dated word and used to be the more common way of saying 'yes.' Nowadays, you'll mostly hear it in period movies or from people of a certain age.

However, there is one place in which it's still the official word, and that's in the context of politics. You show support for a vote or idea by saying 'yea.'

For example:

I vote yea on the new legislation.

It can be used as an adverb, such as in the sentence above, or a noun, like in the following sentence:

I cast a yea vote.

What Does 'Yay' Mean?

Unlike 'yeah' and 'yea,' 'yay' does not actually mean 'yes.' It's an interjection showing enthusiasm for the other person's words. It's usually followed by an exclamation mark.

For example:

Your uncle is visiting tomorrow.


It also has a secondary meaning. People use it as a descriptor adjective. It could replace words such as 'this' or 'very.'

For example:

I caught a fish this morning; it was yay big.

This sentence would probably be accompanied by a hand gesture to demonstrate the size.

Pronunciation: How to Pronounce 'Yeah,' 'Yea,' and 'Yay'

Now that we've clarified each word's meaning, let's look into how to pronounce them.

How to Pronounce 'Yeah' and 'Yea'

The words 'yeah' and 'yea' are pronounced the same and rhyme with 'hair,' 'pear,' or 'rare,' where the 'r' sound isn't pronounced but influences how the word sounds. Here are two ways to describe how to pronounce the words:

[ yeh ]

[ yair ]

The International Phonetics Alphabet spelling for the word is:

/ yɛə /

How to Pronounce 'Yay'

'Yay' rhymes with 'neigh,' the sound a horse makes. It also rhymes with 'nay,' which is a slang word for 'no.'

Take care not to pronounce it like other words ending in 'ay,' like 'pay' or 'gray,' where the 'a' has a longer sound.' The 'a' in 'yay' is much more bouncy, almost like an 'e.'

[ yey ]

The IPA spelling goes like this:

/ yeɪ /

How to Use 'Yeah' vs 'Yea' vs 'Yay'

It's time to look at some example sentences that use three words, so you can better understand how to use them in context.

Yeah, I know what you mean.

Citizens are often required to cast a yea or nay vote on big decisions that will affect them.

Yay! We did it!

Yeah, I think I'm gonna pass.

The yea votes far outnumbered the nos.

Oh, yay, I'm so excited.

Concluding Thoughts on 'Yeah' vs 'Yea' vs 'Yay'

So there you have it; the difference between 'yeah' vs 'yea' vs 'yay.'

Let's summarize:

  • 'Yea' and 'yeah' both stand for 'yes'
  • 'Yea' is an old-fashioned way to say 'yes'
  • 'Yea' is still formally used in political contexts
  • 'Yeah' is slang for 'yes'
  • 'Yay' is an interjection used to denote enthusiasm

Do you want to learn the difference between more confusing words like these? Head on over to our blog!

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Written By:
Carly Forsaith
Carly Forsaith is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. Carly is a copywriter who has been writing about the English language for over 3 years. Before that, she was a teacher in Thailand, helping people learn English as a second language. She is a total grammar nerd and spends her time spotting language errors on signs and on the internet.

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