There is a response in Australian English that means "Yes I hear you and empathise with your situation, but no this course of action won't work for me." [Yeah-Nah]

I assumed this was a normal part of the English language, until I saw other discussions claiming this to be unique to Australian English. That didn't seem to hold water for me.

My question is: Is 'yeah-nah' a uniquely Australian idiom?

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    I have never heard that expression in the United States, nor in my traveling to London, Kenya, or Canada. – ScotM Jun 21 '15 at 4:08
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    a similar expression is found in US English but not with the same meaning. – user31341 Jun 21 '15 at 4:32
  • that's fascinating @jlovegren - do you have any further experiences of that? – hawkeye Jun 21 '15 at 4:34
  • "I hear, but don't agree." Is that the same as "Whatever"? – Hugh Jun 21 '15 at 5:42
  • It's exceedingly common in Norwegian (ja nei), too, except there it doesn't really mean anything at all, other than just being a filler to indicate that you're keeping up with the conversation and are going to say something. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jun 21 '15 at 7:13

Expanding on @jlovegren's comment:

It turns out there are similar idioms in American, Indian, South African and New Zealand English.

This concept has popular culture references in How I Met Your Mother and Punch Drunk Love.

There is a study on this by the University of Pennsylvania.

In the Australian case - there is a study: [K. Burridge and M. Florey, "''Yeah-no He's a Good Kid': A Discourse Analysis of Yeah-no in Australian English", Australian Journal of Linguistics, 22(2): 124-171, 2002. Here's the abstract:

Yeah-no in Australian English is a relatively new marker which serves a number of functions, including discourse cohesion, the pragmatic functions of hedging and face-saving, and assent and dissent.

Also on the Australian side, there is this article in the Age.

So in conclusion, there seem to be similar phrases across dialects of English, but not with necessarily the same meaning. (One might add, their meaning seems sufficiently context-specific and flexible that there are few established rules on this. )

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    Additionally, I'm familiar with an American English idiomatic use of this phrase that's slightly rude; you'd probably only say it around people you know well. Example: Child: "Can't I watch some TV? I'm almost done with my homework!" Parent: "Yeah, no." This usage carries a meaning of "I see your argument, but I'm still saying no." – Caleb Jun 21 '15 at 22:18
  • I have also heard "sí pero no" in Tex-Mex / Mex-Mex Spanish. – shoover Aug 5 '19 at 16:55

Yeah Nah is not really Australian at all and is far more prevalent in New Zealand. In fact Australian's visiting New Zealand often state they find our use of Yeah Nah baffling.

It's usually used to mean yes but no in a manner such as:

Q) "Do you want to go for a pint after work?" A) "Yeah Nah. I can't today." Translation: I'd love to go for a pint after work but I've got to get straight home today so I can get to parent teacher interviews on time."


Q) "Is xyz activity dangerous?" A) "Yeah Nah" Translation: XYZ activity is dangerous if you're an idiot.

  • I'm Australian and am used to hearing it here in Australia, but perhaps we got it from you. I say "yeah, no" myself. – nnnnnn Oct 17 '19 at 11:45

Yeah nah is a kiwi (New Zealand) slang. We have said it for decades. It is not Australian. Kiwis say yeah... acknowledging what the other person is saying but nah, don't agree or not gonna do that or just meaning no thanks. It's very very common here in NZ. There are even T shirts at our airports with yeah nah written on the front. It's as common as getting up in the morning.


It might originally, but that is just an assumption, come from the german language where you can use the word 'jaein' which is the combination of 'ja' and 'nein'.(yeah and nah)

Probably through immigration this concept were transferred into the the English language(not necessarily from the german language but it is just an example)


Estuary London, street and cockney speaking brits use this- yeah nah - sometimes yeah, no or no, yeah depending on how they pronounce it, for example, yeah, no, of course, I will - yeah, no bruv that wasn't happening.

Maybe Australians picked it up originally there. Or maybe the other way around. I'm Brit. I use it. Some of my relatives immigrated to Australia back in the 50s.


Kay is correct, "Yeah, nah" and "yeah, no" (varies with speaker's pronunciation) are used in London in general; as is the reverse of "no/nah, yeah" e.g "nah, yeah I was telling him, but he didn't want to hear it."

I use both myself, "yeah, nah" a lot more frequently than the reverse, and so do many of my friends and peers. I had no idea this was seen as a chiefly Australian speech habit until very recently. This is the only post I've found on the internet acknowledging that it is used in UK speech, and for some reason it doesn't seem to have been acknowledged even though it is accurate.

I couldn't tell you who "came up with it" first, but I wouldn't be surprised if it developed independently, as the thought process underlying it is apparently the same in both my usage (which I will generalise to <30-year-old "Multicultural London English" users) and this Australian reddit user's usage

the first word indicates 1 of 2 things

if they start with yeah = I hear what your saying and

if they start with nah = In all seriousness though

and how they end it is the answer


nah, yeah = in all seriousness the answer is yes or in all seriousness i agree with you

yeah, nah = i hear what you are saying and i dont agree or yeah i am aware but the answer is no

Literally, the way he described it is a perfect transcription of what's going on in my head when I use it. I don't remember "learning to speak this way" from anyone in particular, or putting it on deliberately. I wouldn't have been talking that way in primary school. I'd say more around mid-to-late secondary is when my speech would have developed that bit further to start verbally acknowledging the other person's point of view, for example, with a "yeah" before saying "no/nah" and giving my opinion. I don't think I would need to have heard that off someone to have started doing that, which is why it wouldn't surprise me if it developed independently in both UK and Australian/New Zealander English. I wonder if it's used in South African/Zimbabwe English as well?

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