The meaning of things: What is a

“I sound my barbaric YAWP over the roofs of the world.” - Walt Whitman

We didn’t make it up, and it's not a typo. "YAWP" is a real word that can score you 12 points in scrabble. But what is a “YAWP” and why does it mean so much to us? We’re happy to explain:

Yawp  /yôp/ [yawp, yahp]


  1. a harsh or hoarse cry or yelp.
  • “Jack’s style today was so on-point he couldn’t help but YAWP!”
  • “Jack YAWPed so loud, he woke the neighbors.”

The word first appeared sometime in the 14th century (although those with confidence have been YAWPing far, far longer) from the Middle English word “yolpen,” which came from “yelpen,” which means to boast, call out, or yelp. The louder the better.

Here’s an example of a reasonably well executed YAWP.

Famous YAWPs

“I sound my barbaric YAWP over the roofs of the world.”  Those are the words of American poet, Walt Whitman, in his old-as-the-earth poem, “Song of Myself.” Oh, so you’re not a recovering English major and didn't read this quote in your great, great grandfather's copy of Works by Uncle Walt? Don’t worry, we probably know why it still sounds familiar.

Ever heard of the movie, Dead Poet’s Society? You know, the one where English teacher John Keating (played by Robin Williams) inspires the young men in his senior high school English class through the art of poetry. If you’ve seen it, you might recall the scene where Keating delivers his famous speech on the barbaric YAWP that leaves you wondering what a better person you could have been with Mr. Keating as your English teacher. “O Captain! My Captain!”

Remember, the louder the YAWP, the better. So, get in the shower, lather up with the greatest body wash known to man, take your YAWPing stance and sound your own barbaric YAWP… it's guaranteed to make you feel roaringly alive!