What is the meaning and usage of why in the sentence below:

All my aunts and uncles talked it over as if they were choosing a prep-school for me and finally said, ‘Why—yees’ with very grave, hesitant faces.

Is it a form of confirmation and agreement? Is it equal to yes?

In what kind of prose is it used? Is it archaic or contemporary?

2 Answers 2


Why in this sense is

—used to express mild surprise, hesitation, approval, disapproval, or impatience "why, here's what I was looking for" - Merriam Webster>

It is old-fashioned, yes. But people say this sort of word without thinking, and can be surprised to find they still use it. My neice only realised she said "blimey" a lot when she went to the US. She thought she'd never use such an old (to her) expression.


Why-yes means of course. I'm looking for a dictionary reference and will insert as soon as I find.

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