This question already has an answer here:

I was wondering on where the origins of the word tar to mean thank you came from. I have reached tar and have come up with this definition

Tar is a dark brown or black viscous liquid of hydrocarbons and free carbon, obtained from a wide variety of organic materials through destructive distillation.

How does this relate to being thankful?

marked as duplicate by Edwin Ashworth, Community Dec 5 '17 at 9:19

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

  • See this question. – Stuart Allen Dec 5 '17 at 8:44
  • @Mari-LouA Sorry I don't quite understand. Please explain?? – Jake Symons Dec 5 '17 at 9:39
  • 1
    A bit difficult to explain seeing as my comment got deleted. Someone must have flagged it for deletion. So if I expand, that too will get deleted. The comment was not directed at you but at the "anonymous" downvoter who downvoted all three posts. A pity you chose to close your question, it would have attracted greater attention from users who are pronunciation freaks. – Mari-Lou A Dec 5 '17 at 13:29

You're thinking of “ta”, tar is how a British English speaker would pronounce it, and it's a shortening of “thanks”. Quite often the speaker will tag “very much” to the end.

British; informal
Thank you.
‘‘Ta,’ said Willie gratefully’
Oxford Dictionaries

As to why and how “ta” means “thank you”, that is an interesting question.

As WS2's answer explains, the etymology of ta has been dated from 18th century, but it was probably said and heard much earlier than that. The OED believes that the sound is imitative of small children speech, and there is some evidence to suggest that is true. Searching online, I found several resources which state that children master the unvoiced "th" sound by the time they are seven or eight years old.

Speech Developmental Milestones:

  • /p,b,m,h,w/ and vowels are expected to be mastered by 2.5 to 3 years of age.
  • /d,t,k,g,f,n,ng,y/ are expected to be mastered by 4 years of age.
  • /s,z,l,v,sh/ are expected to be mastered by 6 years of age.
  • /j,ch,th/ are expected to be mastered by 7 years of age.
  • /r,zh/ are expected to be mastered by 8 years of age.

Source: Tips For Teaching the “th” Sound

8-9 yrs
A child should be able to say ALL sounds correctly including:

r s z th (thin) TH (that)

Speech Development in Children. When Does It Start? (link)

In a paper titled, The Sequence of Speech-Sound Acquisition, its author Fran R. Lehr, M.A., reproduces a table listing the different sound acquisitions mastered by children between the ages of one and eight years old.

enter image description here

Very young children will sometimes pronounce thank you as “tank you”

Ds1 [Dear son #1] is 3.5 and cannot say the 'th' sound. I know this is well within what is considered normal speech development. ….

… My ds has a different sound for the 'th' depending on what word he is saying.

Three = 'free'
Thing = 'hing'
Something = 'someping'
This = 'dis'
Thank you = 'tank you'

Source: Mothering.com


It has nothing whatever to do with tar, the substance used for paving roads. The word to which you refer is usually written ta.

It has been around since at least the eighteenth century and is thought of as being an infantile form of "thank you". Indeed the OED's supposition is that that is the origin of the word - a young child's attempt to say "thank you". Though it is commonly in very informal adult use today.

The OED entry is as follows:

Etymology: Perhaps originally representing a child's pronunciation of thank you phr. colloq. An infantile form of: thank you. Now also commonly in adult use.

1772 M. Delany Autobiogr. & Corr. (1862) 2nd Ser. I. 457 You would not say ‘Ta’ to me for my congratulation.

1807 Salmagundi 31 Dec. 400 How her ten weeks old baby will laugh and say taa!

1892 I. Zangwill Children of Ghetto I. 117 Give it me. I'll say ‘ta’ so nicely.

1931 A. Powell Afternoon Men xxx. 252 ‘Will you give him this, Sophy?’.. ‘What did he say?’ Sophy said: ‘He just said, “Tar”.’

1946 K. Tennant Lost Haven (1947) iii. 47 Grandfather Starbrace shovelled great handfuls of pink prawns... ‘Ta, Nathe,’ Mr. Thorne said.

1970 ‘R. Gordon’ Doctor on Boil xxiii. 164 ‘Ta,’ he said, slipping the card into the back pocket of his jeans.

1981 D. Clark Longest Pleasure vi. 136 ‘You know your way, don't you?’ ‘Ta, love.’

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