According to Dictionary.com, ain't has two meanings:

  1. Nonstandard except in some dialects. am not; are not; is not.
  2. Nonstandard. have not; has not; do not; does not; did not.

When I lived in the southern part of the US, I also heard hain't with some frequency as well.

Dictionary.com has this definition:

Nonstandard Older Use. ain't; have not; has not.

From this, it seems like hain't and ain't are possibly interchangeable, but because hain't includes specifically have not and has not in this definition, I wonder if the usage of hain't is restricted to these senses of ain't.

If that's the case, then I would expect that

I hain't ever satisfied.*

would sound wrong in these dialects, but

I hain't ever been satisfied.

would be the correct expression. Can anyone confirm that this is the case? Also, are hain't and ain't used in the same dialects, or is hain't's usage more regionally restricted than ain't?

  • Never heard of it in the UK. Not even in badly-researched Victorian period drama. It might still be slightly more "sloppy" to use ain't for has not, have not / hasn't haven't, as well as isn't, aren't. But putting the "h" in sounds almost like Cockney/Mockney overcorrection to me. – FumbleFingers Dec 31 '12 at 0:51
  • But I'm not clear on exactly what you're asking. Do you mean you think some people might say hain't with the sense of isn't/aren't? Bear in mind ain't also stands for am not, as would be the case in your first example, so that might be confusing the issue. – FumbleFingers Dec 31 '12 at 0:56
  • @Fumble Well, I believe it is local to the southern US, so I would be surprised if you'd heard it. And yes, whether some people say hain't meaning isn't. – Kit Z. Fox Dec 31 '12 at 0:59
  • If they do, it is effectively the same as Mockney overcorrection. Hindeed! Ain't it so? – FumbleFingers Dec 31 '12 at 1:17
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    @FumbleFingers: Though 'estuarians' and 'crackers' have a common language somewhere in their past, the latter don't historically have h-dropping and so the phenomenon (if there is one in the south) is very unlikely to be overcorrection like the Cockneys closer to you. – Mitch Dec 31 '12 at 14:11

This may not be confirmation, but Mark Twain, who has this to say about his dialectical decisions in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, uses both words following the distinctions you have made.

He uses ain't solely to me "am not", "are not", or "is not", as in:

"'Stuff! stealing cattle and such things ain't robbery; it's burglary,' says Tom Sawyer. 'We ain't burglars. That ain't no sort of style. We are highwaymen.'"

By comparison, he uses hain't to mean "has not" or "have not", as in:

"'I hain't ever done you no harm. You know that. So, then, what you want to come back and ha'nt me for?' I says: 'I hain't come back—I hain't been gone.'"

Wiktionary claims that in certain dialects, hain't and ain't are synonymous.

Hain’t originally derived from han’t, and meant "has not" and "have not". In certain h-adding modern dialects, hain’t is synonymous with, and a replacement for, ain’t in all its uses.

However, if you're writing or speaking in a dialect that uses these variations and you plan on employing both, interchanging them may cause confusion.

  • Thank you for the references and the excellent answer. I am suspicious of the Wiktionary entry though. It lists hain't as archaic, which I find unlikely. (And I am planning to write in this dialect. You're very astute.) – Kit Z. Fox Dec 31 '12 at 1:01
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    @KitFox: Wiktionary also explains that "hain't" derived from "han't" which, apparently, is still used in substandard Modern English. I disagree with that, too. I have never heard han't in any dialect, although I have heard hain't. – tylerharms Dec 31 '12 at 1:07
  • @tylerharms I very frequently hear, and generally say myself, [hæənt] for both hasn’t and hadn’t. I don't recall seeing it written, however, in any text since the early 19th century. I don't think it's ‘substandard’ at all, merely normal elision. – StoneyB on hiatus Feb 9 '13 at 15:14

Hain’t is attested by over 30 citations in the Oxford English Dictionary. A typical example from 1878 is ‘Nobody can say she hain't been a good yoke-fellow; she's kept up her end’, while another from 1898 is ‘I hain't ben runnin' the Eagle tavern fer quite a consid'able while.’

I would imagine that this pronunciation of ‘ain’t’ arose from uncertainty over whether or not to pronounce /h/ at the beginning of words that begin with a vowel. Those two citations suggest a London dialect, but I have never heard it myself anywhere in the UK.


From 10 years old to 18, I heard and eventually used hain't and ain't interchangeably in informal speech. I remember in the early 1970s one of my classmates found ain't in a dictionary. Students were saying "Ain't is a word, but hain't ain't." The community speaks Core Sound Brogue, like the nearby Ocracoke Island and Hatteras Island accents -- all in North Carolina. Core Sound Brogue is not an h-adding dialect. As an adult I sometimes use hain't for emphasis relative to ain't; I don't know if others do. Southerners around me in and north of Atlanta Georgia either understand my usage or do not notice it.

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