Word of the Day / Yesh יֵשׁ

A staid little word moonlights as a soccer-field exclamatory phrase.

Shoshana Kordova
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Shoshana Kordova

Find a bunch of Israelis watching a soccer game and you are bound to hear exultant exclamations when fans see a player score a goal. And those shouts of joy are likely to be “Yesh!”

When it is acting more staidly, “yesh” is a flexible and common little word, used mostly to mean “there is” or “there are” in a declarative sentence or “is there?” or “are there?” in an interrogative one.

There could be plausible reasons for it to be moonlighting as an exclamation as well. Perhaps, we can speculate, there’s an implied rest of the sentence, like “Yesh gol!” (“There is a goal!”) But I’ve long wondered if the resemblance to the similarly used English-language cry of “Yes!” is more than coincidental.

Hebrew language maven Rubik Rosenthal comes down firmly against coincidence on this one, writing that the interjectory use of “yesh” is “undoubtedly influenced” by its lisp-less cousin. So is there a yes-yesh connection? The answer could well be “yes, there is.”

Yesh!Credit: AP