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Living in the Pacific Northwest, a person I'm close to frequently uses this word instead of the more common "yep" or "yeah". As I haven't heard it regularly from others and she has Southern American roots, I wondered what the source of this word is and what geographic regions it's most common.

My limited searching of several dictionaries and some Google searches gave a variety of origin years ranging from the early 1900s to the 1980s. None of them cited this first usage and I was unable to find information on on regional distribution at a sub-national level; apparently this is primarily an Americanism, though this was not well cited either.

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    Etymology of affirmations: yes, yea, yeah, yep, aye | OUPblog. blog.oup.com/2014/12/… – user66974 Dec 9 '16 at 21:44
  • Yes is the same word as yea which is the same in germanic. It's a very old word. Being one of the most used words in the English language, yea probably was said as yep and yup in many colloquial settings, workshops, pubs many times before it was recorded in writing. yup is a fairly low energy way of say the word, which is probably easier to pronounce than yea, so laborers saying yea would have probably said yep/yup even centuries ago, in the year 1200!!! same as saying nope, it's a lazy pronunciation made likely by repetition. leap and chop are easier to say than lea and cho. – com.prehensible Dec 9 '16 at 21:57
  • As far as "regional dispersion" goes, yup is certainly widely used in Britain. – Andrew Leach Dec 10 '16 at 9:32
  • In the US, I'd consider "yup" to be rural, but not necessarily attached to a particular culture. – Hot Licks Dec 19 '16 at 13:10
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The following sources suggest its origin (1906) as an variant of yep which is used mainly in the west part of the U.S.A.

Yup:

  • form of yeah as an isolated or emphatic utterance, with p representing closing of the lips, creating, in effect, an unreleased labial stop (and perhaps also lowering the vowel); compare the parallel use of p in nope.

(Dictionary.com)

Yep vs yup:

  • The difference is one of intonation and accent, not any difference in meaning. Originally, the two spellings would have stemmed from regionalisms, "yep" in the East and Southern USA, "yup" in the West.

(Quora.com)

Yup:

  • The Oxford English Dictionary places the first use of yeah in 1905, one year before yup. Although the first quotation for yup comes from a magazine article, the first quotation for yeah is from an academic journal on American regional dialects.

  • It's likely both words were in use before they showed up in print, so the best presumption we can make is that yeah and yup appeared around the same time.

Here's the timeline:

  • Yep, 1891 (first appeared as a quotation in Harper's Magazine)
  • Yeah, 1905 (first described in Dialect Notes)
  • Yup, 1906 (first appeared as a quotation in Century Magazine)

(www.visualthesaurus.com)

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    I had found the dictionary.com origin but wasn't satisfied since they didn't indicate where this was used in 1906. Thanks for narrowing it down to Century Magazine. You did a great job tying together the multitude of (often poor) sources out there to paint a clearer picture. – William Grobman Dec 9 '16 at 21:50
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Here's the US distribution of yup, yep, yeah and yea according to the great American word mapper: "Where the top 100,000 words are used the most, as seen through Twitter data".

yup, yep, yeah, yea on the US map

We can see yup is most popular in the north, north-east, but also Texas and the mid-west.

Of these four, yeah is most popular in the Pacific north-west.

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    This answer is a wonderful compliment to @JOSH's great answer. Thank you for fleshing out where it's used and for turning me on to such a good resource. – William Grobman Dec 19 '16 at 18:46
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    @WilliamGrobman You're welcome! Do the maps tally with the usage you've heard? – Hugo Dec 19 '16 at 19:12
  • I don't think I can judge unless these charts use a constant scale; I've spent nearly all my life in the PNW and these charts really only allow region to region comparison of a single phrase. A similar chart that shows the relative popularity of each word in one region would be all I can speak to. – William Grobman Dec 19 '16 at 20:10

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