Based on the definitions, yare1 seems like a subset of nimble, that is to say, anytime you could use yare1, you could use nimble1 instead, but nimble2 and nimble3 are clearly (I think) distinct from yare1. So when would you ever use yare1 specifically over nimble1?

Also, I think what is adding to my confusion is that the "archaic" yare3 definition includes nimble as a synonym.

I am of course not conidering yare2 (or really even yare3) in the context of this question, just yare1.

From dictionary.com:


  1. quick; agile; lively.
  2. (of a ship) quick to the helm; easily handled or maneuvered.
  3. Archaic.
    ready; prepared.
    nimble; quick.



  1. quick and light in movement; moving with ease; agile; active; rapid:
    nimble feet.
  2. quick to understand, think, devise, etc.:
    a nimble mind.
  3. cleverly contrived:
    a story with a nimble plot.


also want to include where I came across the weird word in the first place: http://gatherer.wizards.com/Pages/Card/Details.aspx?name=yare

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    I would never use yare. I'm not sure I've ever heard it, except maybe in pirate talk, about a ship. – Arm the good guys in America Nov 7 '17 at 3:10
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    This is the first time I've ever encountered yare. – Jeff Zeitlin Nov 7 '17 at 3:12
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    @JeffZeitlin granted yare is more obscure, but beyond that the definitions are so similar, and I hate to think that one synonym is preferred over another based solely on common usage and not the actual definition of the word – chiliNUT Nov 7 '17 at 3:16
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    I've never seen "yare", just "yar", and I interpret it in the sailing sense, with other uses being figurative. If you used "yare" to mean "nimble", most folks in the US would not know what you meant. – Hot Licks Nov 7 '17 at 3:21
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    It's not really used in a non-archaic sense anymore. But if you were to compare the definitions, as I see it, "yare" carries more of a connotation of alertness whereas "nimble" carries more of a connotation of being light – RaceYouAnytime Nov 7 '17 at 5:17

The difference between yare and nimble is that yare is obsolete and hardly ever used (except by Katherine Hepburn playing in High-Society 70 years ago), and nimble is a word in common use. The Oxford English Dictionary has a lengthy entry with many examples, of which I list only three.

  1. a. Alert, nimble, active, brisk, quick.

1698 J. Vanbrugh Short Vindic. 27 I believe, had the Obscenity he has routed up here, been buried as deep in his Church-yard, the Yarest Boar in his Parish wou'd hardly have tost up his Snout at it.

1707 E. Ward Wooden World Dissected 11 It's the Trick of a Hound to be yare at Hares only.

1869 Athenæum 28 Aug. 284/2 Yare, which is still current in Norfolk, and is pronounced yar, = brisk, active, lively.

Another definition of yare in the OED (same link) should really have added the Katherine Hepburn line, but instead chose to end its list of examples with a 1658 quotation.

2 b. Of a ship: Moving lightly and easily; answering readily to the helm; easily manageable.

1658 Earl of Monmouth tr. P. Paruta Hist. Venice ii. iii. 177
Vluzzali..commanded 25 of his yarer gallies..to assault our right Wing

The OED (same link as above) also has a quotation from 1275, showing that yare-witel means quick witted. Thus, yare, does indeed imply nimble as in the OP's definition #2 of nimble:

2.quick to understand, think, devise, etc.: a nimble mind

or it did in 1275.

I did not find a definition or a quotation in the OED for yare that means

cleverly contrived (The OP's definition #3 of nimble.)

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