From Wikipedia, I know Aye aye sir is used in a naval response. I want know the origin of why Aye aye sir is used here?

Another question: when I saw TV series A Song of Ice and Fire, I found Aye is used in their conversation. In which cases could Aye be used?

  • The origin of aye is unknown. The most likely hypothesis is that it is from a, ay, an word meaning "ever" in older English (vide Oxford English Dictionary); but there appears to be no consensus. – Cerberus_Reinstate_Monica Oct 21 '14 at 3:17
  • 2
    Comment only because (to me) it makes sense but I have no basis for this to be true. 1) I can't verify it, but "aye" would be more audible in windy and stormy conditions than "yes" and 2) the duplication of the sound "I" would distinguish itself as a "yes" rather than intimating a sentence beginning with "I". – SrJoven Oct 21 '14 at 3:50
  • Might it be a similar to saying "si si" in Spanish? – Misneac Nov 16 '15 at 3:48
  • It can be explained in one word. – Hot Licks Mar 11 '16 at 22:15

The appearance of the word 'aye' twice is to signify that the order has been understood and will be carried out. Per the wikipedia article you cited:

It differs from yes, which, in standard usage, could mean simple agreement without any intention to act. ... This might be a matter of life and death for a ship at sea.

The Navy heritage FAQ also offers a less-than-definitive explanation of the origin:

This affirmative expression is generally supposed to be a corruption of the words Yea, yea. The claim is advanced that Cockney accents changed the Yea to Yi, and from there it was a simple transition to Aye.

There are some other thoughts on the matter, but generally a lack of consensus on how exactly it came about.

To your second question, "aye" in general can be a substitute for "yes", particularly in variants of British English.

  • 1
    In the Maine coastal dialect, "ayuh" is a synonym for yes. I have to wonder if there's a relation to "aye". – JenSCDC Oct 21 '14 at 16:02

"aye" might be connected in some way with an old Latin defective verb "aio" meaning "I say yes". I haven't checked if this connection holds water, it is a first idea, but I think it might be possible. I'll do some research.

Added:Etymonline says: origin unknown. Three hypotheses: from I, variant from yes, from aye 2, adverb.


I think the hypothesis of Latin aio might be possible. Another thing is to get an idea what course this Latin formula might have taken. Possibly it became a standard formula in nautical language in Roman times and slowly spread into other languages. I don't know the corresponding nautical formulas in Italian, Spanish, French etc. But it would be interesting to figure this out.


"Aye" or "aye, aye" means you may not agree with the order but it will be carried out immediately because you trust your captain with your life. A "Yes, Sir" response means you understand the order but need more information before carrying out the order. I have no references other than an old salty Master Chief I served under in the US Navy.

  • Welcome to English Language & Usage! You'll notice that this question is quite old and has some other answers already. It's fine to answer old questions with answers, but usually only if you have new information, and the lack of sources means that your answer is unlikely to get attention. If you add sources you may do better, or answer new questions that still don't have answers. – SuperBiasedMan Feb 24 '16 at 9:40

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