Why Are Americans Called “Yanks”?

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While no one knows precisely where the term “Yankee” and its abbreviated form “Yank” originated, both are used to describe Americans in general and northerners, especially New Englanders, specifically. Residents of countries throughout the world refer to Americans as Yankees.

The song “Yankee Doodle Dandy” originated in England and was sung by both the British and early Americans, its lyrics changing as it made its way back and forth across the Atlantic Ocean during the late 17th and early 18th centuries, according to National Public Radio. The English used lyrics that made light of Americans, while the Americans changed the lyrics to poke fun at the British.

According to NationalGeographic.com, many Americans embrace the term Yankee in an affectionate way. Fans of the New York Yankees baseball team, for example, are proud of the name. Many southern Americans, however, find the term offensive, due to the South having attempted to secede from the Union during the Civil War.

Culturally, Yankees are considered white, elite and wealthy people, according to NationalGeographic.com. Former presidents George H. W. Bush, John F. Kennedy and Calvin Coolidge, all of whom were from New England states, were considered Yankees. In New England, the term usually refers specifically to residents of the state of Vermont.