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What is the root word of Yahoo? Is there any truth to the claims by some that it was used by Hebrews as a safe word to use instead of Yahweh?

marked as duplicate by FumbleFingers, Hugo, Rory Alsop, TrevorD, James McLeod Sep 2 '13 at 15:40

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  • 1
    Are you talking about the exclamation, as in, “Yahoo! It worked!”? That is most certainly nothing to do with safe words for Yahweh—it’s just a natural exclamation, just like ‘weehoo’, ‘yeehaw’, ‘waahaa’, ‘woohoo’, etc. The reduplication is interesting, but the origin is quite simply onomatopoeic (if that’s a good term—after all, it’s not really imitating anything as such). – Janus Bahs Jacquet Sep 1 '13 at 14:53
  • Surely this is General Reference? Even allowing for the fact that references to the modern-day IT company might confuse things a bit, Googling yahoo etymology presents all the relevant information in the "snippet" for the first result (from etymonline.com). – FumbleFingers Sep 1 '13 at 17:09
  • etymonline.com/… – Benyamin Hamidekhoo Sep 1 '13 at 18:33
  • When (If) you are unaware of the etymology of Yahoo, why make any presumptions? I think it is better to just ask "What is the real etymology of the word 'Yahoo'?" a sharp, open-ended question. – Kris Sep 2 '13 at 6:44

The word is from Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels and described one of the races he encountered. See here:

yahoo (n.)
"a brute in human form," 1726, from the race of brutish human creatures in Swift's "Gulliver's Travels." The internet search engine so called from 1994.

This NGram clearly shows that the word entered the language circa 1720 which is when the book was published:

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In the Hebrew Bible, the scribes who copied a given biblical text containing the "proper" name for God used what we call the tetragramaton, which in the English alphabet we write YHVH or YHWH. Written Hebrew did not contain vowels.

Just as an aside, scribes back then treated God's proper name with respect, which in my opinion was a good thing. Today, we use the word God so casually that I cringe a little bit every time I hear it! At least in texting we use the acronym OMG, which is some consolation.

Scribes would wipe off their "pen" (a quill), say a quick prayer, and only then would they dip the quill into the ink and write YHWH (pronounced Yah' way--Yahweh), which word they were not allowed to pronounce. That's how reverently they treated God's name. Religious Jews in general, but scribes in particular, were careful not to write God's name anywhere or in any situation in which it might be erased or defaced, which, again, showed a respect and a reverence for the Person of God. To this day, at the Jewish Stack Exchange web site (Mi Yodeya), contributors write the word God G_d.

As for exactly how God's name may have been pronounced thousands of years ago, we simply do not know. Interestingly, however, one possible pronunciation is actually


which today functions both as the name of a home for one's email (and the site of a bazillion advertisements), as well as an interjection one might hear at a western rodeo (or in a retro Mountain Dew commercial--"Yahoo! Mountain Dew!") which conveys excitement with un-self-conscious abandon, usually at the top of one's voice (i.e., loud!). Personally, I don't see anything wrong with getting excited now and then, even (especially?) when we are worshiping the one true God! Can I get an amen?

If you're wondering (which I'm sure you are, he said sardonically) what became of the tetragrammaton, in English we provided the vowels to the Hebrew and spelled it J-e-h-o-v-a-h--Jehovah (or J-e-h-o-w-a-h--Jehowah)--in some places, and other places L-O-R-D--LORD, with all caps.

  • Excellent answer. As a side point, I'd argue that the superstition of not pronouncing the divine name showed a lack of respect for the divine name. Over time, the pronunciation was lost and YHWH was replaced by generic titles, like LORD. Evidence exists that YHWH wished his name to be used. When you consider that there are numerous songs in Psalms where YHWH was sung aloud, The Lord's prayer asks for Jesus father's NAME to be made hallowed. Prophets (such as Moses) were told to go in the NAME of YHWH. Scribes did show some respect by WRITING YHWH but many translators did not, by REPLACING it. – OneProton Feb 25 '16 at 0:34

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