English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

In honor of International Talk Like A Pirate Day, I’d like to ask a question about the pirate dialect of English. Most pirate sentences begin with a standard pirate-sounding hedge to lend authenticity.

A frequent hedge is arr, but the variations yar, yarr, and yargh are also quite common. Is there a distinction in meaning between arr and the yar variants, or are these simply different spellings of the same exclamation? For instance, is yar a contraction of yes and arr, therefore implying an affirmation or agreement?

share|improve this question
Off-topic: You should post this at pirate-talk.stackexchange.com – JeffSahol Sep 19 '11 at 1:31
Avast, me matey, EL&U be pirate.SE on this fine September day! – Kit Z. Fox Sep 19 '11 at 1:36
If that be, then blow me down! Arrrgh! – JeffSahol Sep 19 '11 at 2:23
Belay that, JeffSahol, ye must be addled to be a-thinking of such bilge! – Thursagen Sep 19 '11 at 7:35
I be seeing many answers, but none that has a sourcin'... – Kit Z. Fox Sep 19 '11 at 12:03
up vote 5 down vote accepted

JeffSahol be right, tis usually a placeholder but nay, it be not as 'like' in ValSpeak for tis always an exclamation. Ye hear many a pirate say "Arrr!" meanin' aye, but Long John Silver ere, ee meant it oft times as nay!, as ye may see with yer own pirate eyes and ears in this ere video clip.

share|improve this answer

It be like "ano" in Japanese, me boy, or "like" in valspeak, a verbal placeholder.

share|improve this answer

"Yarr: v. i. 1. To growl or snarl as a dog." — Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary, published 1913 by C. & G. Merriam Co. The top definition on Urban Dictionary agrees.

I think the positive meaning relates to "yare" (Adjective 1. Ready; dexterous; eager; lively; quick to move. Adverb 1. Soon. — Websters). As does this page:

According to the Dictionary of English Nautical Language Database, "yare," also pronounced "yahr" and derived from the Old High German word, "garo," meaning "ready," refers to a well-designed, easy-to-handle boat. "Yar" is also connected to the Gaelic word, "garbh," meaning "rugged," which accounts for the naming of the River Yar on the Isle of Wight.

share|improve this answer
Very interesting. I've never heard of that word before. Thanks! – Kit Z. Fox Aug 1 '12 at 10:34
Yare - Surely it's "Adjective 1. Ready; &c"? @KitFox, you'll find 'yarely' used in Tmp I,i. – StoneyB Aug 18 '12 at 3:01
@StoneyB, good catch. I've sent Cassidy an email about that. – Cees Timmerman Aug 20 '12 at 11:13

Yarrrgh! It be. Yarrrgh! It be!

share|improve this answer

I'd be contendin' that 'Yarrrgh!!' would be an affirmation' of yer yabberin'; whereas 'Aaarrghh!' would be refutin' yer spurious claims.


share|improve this answer
Uh, this is very interesting. Hopefully any other contributions you choose to make here will not be so piratey. – user11550 Aug 18 '12 at 23:24

Yarrr! Of course it be. Avast from any other thoughts.

share|improve this answer

"Yargh" sounds more like an indicator that the speaker has just been forced to walk the plank.

share|improve this answer

Ye scurvey landlubber, yar be askin' what yarr be standin' for? Yargh, ye be nuttin' bu' a scurvy bilgerat-- nay, ye be an ARISTOCRAT! It be the plank at dawn fer ye!

(An' yarr, yarr be meanin' yes. Th'others be meanin' other things.)

share|improve this answer

No, this is a battle cry, used in pirate times. It had developed from German. It also is defo right so avast ye, ye scurvy barnacles

share|improve this answer

protected by tchrist Jul 1 '14 at 1:00

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.