Apparently, Yester cannot be used alone in a sentence, except when accompanied by "day (yesterday) or year (yesteryear)". It cannot be used incombination with other portions of time like; yestermonth, yesterweek, yestersecond, yesterminute, yesterhour or yestermillisecond. So what is "Yester"?

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    According to dictionary.com, the term yesterweek existed. – Mari-Lou A Oct 7 '14 at 20:27
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    Plenty, nay eons of yesterweeks in Google books. – Mari-Lou A Oct 7 '14 at 20:29
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    Six instances for yestermonth in the 19th century – Mari-Lou A Oct 7 '14 at 20:31
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    Not to mention yesternight. – Peter Shor Feb 14 '15 at 17:04
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    A Google Books search turns up more than fifty matches for yestertime, which appears to mean simply "the past." The matches date back to 1884. It also yields seven matches for yesterplace, four for yestergone, two for yesterways (clearly not typos), and one for yesterculture (which sounds as though it ought to refer to a thriving colony of yeast). – Sven Yargs Feb 14 '15 at 17:55

"yesterday" is related to German gestern (the last day/ day before today) and Latin heri. From heri an adjective form was derived: hesternus. Change h in hestern.. to g and you get gestern or change h in hester... to y and you get yester. (This play with letters is a simplification. English y surely did not develop from Latin h.)

The etymology of heri is not clear. There are a lot of old Indo-European variants, but they are mere variants and there is no idea of what might be behind heri. My idea would be that Latin heri might be related with the Latin verb form fuere, then the idea behind heri would simply be: the day that was.

So the question "What is a yester? may be asked, of course, but as you see some words have a development of two thousand years and more and not every word element was a noun.

  • It seems like English has only allowed yester to be in front of "day" and "year", if you just type "yestermonth or week" even in a MS Word document, you'll immediately see it marked as Error... Why Only "Day" and "Year" and nothing else? – ErickBest Oct 7 '14 at 18:44
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    The distribution of initial Latin h-, German g-, and English y- before a front vowel is perfectly regular. They are all the regular, straightforward development of PIE *ĝʰ(e/i)-. @Erick Never trust MS Word’s spellchecker (or any other spellchecker) to know what is and is not a word. Yesterweek used to be a perfectly fine word, and yestermonth was used, too. They just happen to have fallen out of use. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Oct 7 '14 at 22:52
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    Also, that there is “no idea what might be behind heri” is not true at all. There are lots of cognates, all meaning ‘yesterday’ or ‘the other day’, to the PIE *dʰĝʰi̯es-, which is quite simply the nominal stem *dʰeĝʰ- ‘day’ (the root found in the English word ‘day’) + a contrastive suffix *-i̯es-/-i̯os-, which also functions as one of the ways to create comparatives of adjectives (in Latin, it shows up as -ior/-ius; in Germanic, it underlies the regular comparative ending -er). So it’s just “that day [as opposed to this one]”. No connection with fuere at all. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Oct 7 '14 at 22:58
  • Cognates only show a similiar form. And a construct of common consonants as IE root is simply a consonant skeleton. But such things don't show in any way what was the idea that lead to the Latin word formation heri. A word form and its meaning is one thing, but the idea why people coined this word is something totally different and you don't find it in cognates or in IE roots. – rogermue Oct 24 '14 at 19:03
  • Actually, the term arose from harried husbands whose wives were constantly telling them "I told you to do that the day before today!" Hence the day before today came to be known as "yes-dear-day". – Hot Licks Feb 4 '16 at 16:52

Further to rogermue's answer: according to Online Etymology Dictionary, yesteryear (n.) was

coined 1870 by Dante Gabriel Rossetti from yester- + year to translate French antan (from Vulgar Latin *anteannum "the year before") in a refrain by François Villon: Mais ou sont les neiges d'antan? which Rossetti rendered "But where are the snows of yesteryear?"

It was a nonce word, obviously modelled on 'yesterday'. It caught on. Many don't.

What might be called the literal sense (last year) is, however, rarely used:

yesteryear (plural yesteryears). (poetic) Past years; time gone by; yore. (rare) Last year. [Wiktionary]

  • The French word antan means "last year", it doesn't mean "past years; time gone by" (except metaphorically in Villon's poem). So I wouldn't call that the original sense. – Peter Shor Feb 14 '15 at 17:00

"Yester" is what's called a "cranberry morpheme", (like the "cran" of "cranberry") meaning it has no meaning on its own but serves to distinguish words.

  • so, where is it appropriate?... why is it conditioned to "day" and "year"? why not yestermonth, yesterweek, yestersecond, yesterminute, yesterhour or yestermillisecond, any idea??? – ErickBest Oct 7 '14 at 18:06
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    Because you normally use "last" as in last month, last year, etc. – rogermue Oct 7 '14 at 18:13
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    I admire the inventiveness of morpheme-theorists. Cranberry-morpheme is a nice term, but I think I will never need it. – rogermue Oct 7 '14 at 18:17
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    @ErickBest: because yester derives from a word that means yesterday. As such, yesterday means yesterdayday. Which means yesterdaydayday. Even yesteryear I would see as a tricky neologism, often used by people who may eventually consider yesterweek and yestermonth. Just give it time :) – oerkelens Oct 7 '14 at 18:34
  • It seems like English has only allowed yester to be in front of "day" and "year", if you just type "yestermonth or week" even in a MS Word document, you'll immediately see it marked as Error... Why Only "Day" and "Year" and nothing else? – ErickBest Oct 7 '14 at 18:42

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