Thursday, July 13, 2017

Theories About African American Use (If Not Origins) Of The Word "Ayee" ("Ayy") And Similarly Spelled Words On Internet Social Media And Elsewhere

Edited by Azizi Powell

Revised May 26, 2018

This pancocojams post presents definitions, comments, and examples of the use of the American English originated words "ayee" ("ayy") and similarly spelled words, with a focus on the possible African American origin of or expanded usages of these words.

The Addendum of this post provides some information and comments about the viral internet meme "ayy lmao", with particular focus on the "tyrone ayy lmao" meme.

The content of this post is presented for linguistic and socio-cultural purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post.
Click for the
Pancocojams post: Similarities & Differences Between The Yoruba Word "Aiye" ("Aye") And The American Word "Ayee"

Click for the pancocojams post entitled "Information About Brazil's Axé Music & Three Videos Of Brazil's Ilê Aiyê Band".

In this post I largely separate the word "ayee" (also given as "ayy" and other similarly spelled words) from the phrase/meme "ayy lmao". For example, the word "ayee" appears to be pronounced differently than the word "ayy" in "ayy lmao".

"Ayee" appears to be pronounced like an elongated letter "a". However, in "ayy lmao"", "ayy" is pronounced like the English letter "i" (and the English word "eye").

Furthermore, although the Yoruba word "Aiye" ("Aye") are spelled similarly to the English word "ayee" (ayy") etc., its pronunciation is different and it has different meanings than that English word.

In October 2016 Behind The published a YouTube video about the internet meme "ayy lmao" which provides a summary of the internet use of the word "ayy" (without the added acronym "lmao": What does ayy lmao mean? The meaning and origin of the ayyy lmao alien memes.

1:15 - Behind The Meme directs viewers to for meanings for "ayy!". He cited two meanings for that word stating that it could be "a friendly type of greeting or used to express anger. – it all depends on the type of tone that you use."

Here are two time stamped quotes from that video:
1:29 - "Ayy! is heavily used in urban culture and is believed to have evolved from the word “Hey” (The on screen spelling of this word is “Heyyy!”)

1:34 - "This type of informal, laid back greeting is also associated with marijuana culture. Because of this the aliens have been depicted smoking joints."

1:47 - The remainder of the video focuses on why ayy lmao is associated with depictions of aliens.

Here are two entries for the word "ayee":
(given chronological order)

1. "ayeee
word meaning hey or whats up.
ayeee brahh whats with u!
by Kara a.k.a Karebear January 07, 2009

2. "Ayy
"Ayy" is an expression of greeting, most likely coming from the word "hey". It is mostly used in ghetto culture, or by people high on marijuana, and can also be used as an insult or mockery.
Ayy, Tyrone, grab me the remote will 'ya?

Ayy, Irvin, haven't seen you in a while!
by TheChudeDude June 06, 2016
This entry undoubtedly was the definition that Behind The Meme referred to in his video.

The adjective form of the word "ghetto" is usually considered very negative. I therefore take exception to its use as a synonym for Black (African American) culture. Furthermore, that definition doesn't specify which populations of Black people use "ayee" although the gif that was shown on Behind the Meme's screen while he gave this statement was that of a young adult (probably) African American man and woman dancing in a Hip Hop style. To that end, I believe that it's likely that "ayee" is mostly used on the internet and elsewhere by African Americans teens and young adults who are interested in Hip Hop cultures.

As to Behind The Meme's statement that the word "ayee" is also associated with marijuana culture, I don't think that there's enough informal research or any formal research to support that statement.

Here are two urbandictionary entries for "ayee" that give another meaning for that word besides the "friendly greeting" and "an expresion of anger" that Behind The Meme mentions in his video:
1. "ayee
When someone who is very popular walks into a room at school or at a party ayee means Heyyy look justins here.
*Walks in the room*
(bunch of people) Ayeeeee Ayeeeeeee *claps*

by Xtharr December 12, 2006

2. "ayee
is another word for yeaaa.but in a happyer cooler way...mostly used when something sexuall was said
tim: omg i went to the club and i got me 2 sexys
mike: ayeee

by rubencito March 09, 2008
I believe that these two examples convey the same "express excitement and/or approval" meaning for "ayee" as the examples that are given below from African American centered YouTube discussion threads.

It's possible that African Americans also use that word as a greeting or to express anger as Behind The Meme indicated. However, I've not found any examples of those meanings on African American centered YouTube discussion threads.

Here's one entry for "ayy lmao":
"ayy lmao
A phrase that began on Tumblr as a caption for any picture of an extraterrestrial, ostensibly because that is the only thing an extraterrestrial ever says. Since its Tumblr beginnings it has come to be used when referencing any unattractive female, particularly one so hideous as to resemble an extraterrestrial herself.
Rupert: Did you see the girl I was with last night?
Dave: Ayy lmao!
Rupert: Dude, she wasn't that ugly."

#ayy lmao #ugly #alien #extraterrestrial #tumblr
by Levontaun February 11, 2015
The word "that" in the example given above was given in italics.

In the phrase "ayy lmao" the word "ayy" appears to usually be pronounced like the English word “eye” and not the English letter “a” elongated (stretched out). The "lmao" ("laughing my ass off") internet acronym has more than one pronunciation.

Read the Addendum below for more information about and an example of "ayy lmao".

I have three theories about the source for and the meanings of "ayee" ("ayy") and similarly spelled words.

These theories are presented according to which one I think is the most likely, with the first theory being the most likely. However, I also believe that theory #1 and theory #2 could both be true and it's also possible that all three of these theories are true.

All of these theories presupposes that the word "Ayee" ("ayy") and "ayy lmao") originated in the United States.

1. "Ayee" ("aay") has its source in "A", one of the contemporary nicknames for Atlanta, Georgia that is used by some residents of Atlanta, including by some African American residents of that city.

Here's information about Atlanta's nickname from">
"Since [the first nicknames for Atlanta, Georgia were documented in 1859] , the city has known numerous nicknames. Today, The ATL, and The A are the most prevalent.

Contemporary nicknames of Atlanta include, in alphabetical order:

The A/da A: It is used in local media such as Only in the A, a video channel shown on MARTA rapid transit trains in Atlanta[2] and Straight from the A, a popular[3] Atlanta-based blog targeted at African Americans.[4] "The A" or "da A" is also used in hip hop and rap songs such as Ludacris and Lloyd's "How We Do It (in da A)", Lil Scrappy's "The A", and T.I.'s "In da A". Atlanta newspaper Creative Loafing listed as one of its "reasons to love Atlanta" that it's "the only city easily identified by just one letter".[5]

The Atlanta nickname "A" is sometimes written in an elongated form. Since that nickname and the social media word "aay" are pronounced the same, it's sometimes difficult to determine if those elongated examples are Atlanta's "A" nickname or the contemporary use of the word "ayee" ("ayy"). For instance, read #3 and #7 in the "Examples of Atlanta's "A" Nickname" section below.


The ATL,[7] for its airport code”...
I'm not sure when "A" was first used as a nickname for Atlanta, Georgia. However, a YouTube commenter indicates that he remembers T. I.'s In Da A” "back in 2002" posted by Jamie Green, 2013

Examples of the use of the nickname "A" for Atlanta are given below.

2. "Ayee" ("ayy") is an adapted spelling and pronunciation of the word "Hey" ("Heyy"). However, "Hey!" doesn't always mean an informal greeting. Instead, that word can be used to convey excitement.

(used as an exclamation to call attention or to express pleasure, surprise, bewilderment, etc.)

Informal. hello: used as a greeting."
I'm particularly interested in the portion of definition #1 that refers to expressing pleasure.

Read the section below entitled "What "Ayee" means in African American Centered Discussion Threads" etc.

[Update: Added July 13, 2017 8:48 PM]
It just occurs to me that if "ayee" came from the word "Hey!", there would be examples of "Hey!" (or elongated forms of "Hey!" such as "Heyyyy" in online social media threads, as well as examples of the word "Hey!" being use outside the internet the same way that "Aaaaaa" is being documented. However, I don't believe those kind of examples or enough of those examples exist.

The more I think about it, I'm inclined to think that the word "hey" as a source for the word "ayee" is an example of fake etymology. Just because "hey" (or "heyyyy" sounds like "ayee" doesn't mean that "ayee" came from the word "hey".
-end of update-

3. "Ayee" ("aay") is an adaptation of the "aaaaay" word that became the signature of the fictional character Fonz in the 1974-1984 American television show Happy Days. According to a 2011 Daily News article the Fonz's use of "aaaaay" could mean anything. "Unhappy days: Fonz star reveals he created 'aaaaay' catchphrase to cover up misery of undiagnosed dyslexia" By Lucy Buckland, 13 October 2011

Click for a television clip of Fonz saying "aay".

Note that there's no documentation that the thumbs up gesture or any other gesture necessarily accompanies the contemporary use of the word "aay".

Given the theory that I gave as #2 above, I believe that the social media word "ayee" ("ayy") is often an expression of excitement and approval.

Given that definition, depending on the context, synonyms for "ayee" are "Yeah!", "Yah!", "Whoopee!", and "That's great!" or, to use African American Vernacular English terms, depending on its context, some synonyms for "ayee" ("Aaaaa!") are "Get it!, "Work it!", "Do it!" (i.e. compliments and encouragement for something that was said or done, or someone who did/is doing something). Read comment #2 in this post's discussion thread for more on these meanings.

In addition, examples of "ayee" on African American centered discussion threads (and probably elsewhere) may also be expressions of hilarity. For instance, read comment #6 in the Examples From African American Centered Discussion Threads below.

There may be examples of "ayee" ("aay") that are used as greetings or that express anger as Behind the meme indicated in his video on "aay lmao". However, notice how the word "ayye" ("aay") in the examples that are given below appear to express excitement and/or approval rather than being used as greetings or expressing anger.

I've refrained from using the term "exclamation" to refer to what I've found appears to be African American uses of the word "ayee" ("ayy") because I'm not sure that that word is always used as an exclamation.

Behind the meme wrote this viral social word as "aay!". However, most of the examples of that word which are given in this post, the word "aay" (or similarly spelled words) aren't followed by an exclamation point. That doesn't mean that those words don't convey excitement. The reason for the lack of an exclamation point may be because punctuation points are seldom used by young people in social media. Notice how many of the comments below are "run on" sentences that don't include capital letters at the beginning of a sentence and don't include periods at the end.

Notice how most of the examples of these words are elongated by spelling the word with additional vowels and/or additional letters toward the end of the word.

That internet custom is discussed in this quote from
Akiko Kasagawa, Mar 1, 2012
"In my experience, adding multiples of a final letter is either a) a sign someone is drunk or high or b) excited!! Example:
Intoxicated: heyyyy whats upp :)
Excited (a crush texts you "hi"): heyyy!!

In my circle of friends, its just a phonetic way of extending the last sound of a word ((could also be hiii heeeey or whats uuuup)) for emphasis."
In internet social media, if a word is elongated and/or if it is written with capitol letters, the feeling that word conveys is increased. Therefore, to social media writers, that style of writing may take the place of exclamation points.

The examples in this section are given in no particular order and are numbered regardless of their source for referencing purposes only
T.I.- In Da A; Uploaded on Dec 18, 2007

1. Jay Dee, 2010
"Whatchaknowbout that!!! Southwest...East Point to be exact!!!
Remind me of spring/summer in the "A"...everybody out on the weekend living it up. Damn I miss GA..."

2. D.J. Williams, 2010
"some of these places ain't da A. They're in the metro area."

3. Money Dollars, 2010
"ay homes i need to get dis song from u i been lookin fo dis bit forever"
"ay" may be a shortened form of "ayy" (or "ayee") or "ay" could be the "A" nickname for Atlanta.

"Homes" here is probably a shortened form of the referent "homie" (a person from your neighborhood or city")
4. Jay Dab, 2013
"this was a str8 classic... i miss this... Tha real A fa show"

5. Opal Wilson, 2016

Lloyd ft. Ludacris - How We Do It In The A - Lyrics *HD* , Published on Aug 27, 2010
''How We Do It (In the A)'... released on August 5th, 2008.

6.mike jones, 2010
"When u in da A... da king rep da city hard, since day 1 !! ... n still does to this day
When you're in the A, the king represents this city hard, (and has) since day one... and still does to this day."

7. Shanxta, 2016
This may refer to Atlanta or may be the vocalization “aYy”.

Disclaimer: This title isn't meant to convey or imply that every person who comments on a YouTube African American culture discussion thread is African American. However, it's likely that the majority of commenters on those discussion threads are Black, as indicated by their comments and often by their accompanying photographs.

The examples in this section are given in no particular order and are numbered regardless of their source for referencing purposes only. Brief explanatory comments are given for some of these examples.

From T.I.- In Da A; Uploaded on Dec 18, 2007

1. We Were Once Kings, 2015
"Reppin Zone 4/ Campbellton Rd, Oakland City to Ben Hill hooee" aaayyee memories"

Sh*t Atlanta People Say Published on Jan 24, 2012
Howard University GA Club
This is the way this title is given on YouTube. The video was published by Howard University's (located in Washington, D.C.) Georgia club (whose members are Howard students from the state of Georgia).

Howard University is a Historically Black College & University (HBCU).

Warning: This video's discussion thread contains language that I believe is inappropriate for children.

2. Cira Whitehead, 2016
"ayyyyeeeee he got the wolfpack pants. #woodland high"
"wolfpack" is the mascot for Woodland High School. an Atlanta, Georgia area high school.

3. Keitra Robinson, 2013
"Ayeeee! I see y'all taped this at FAMU doe that's what's up!"
...I see you video taped this at the Florida Historically Black College & University that is known as FAMU. though. That's what's up. (That's great!).

From Atlanta Lingo Challenge (Compilation) | @HoodEdition
Hood Edition 2, Published on Mar 20, 2016
4. Brittany Humphrey, 2017
"Ayeeee mannnn 🤘🏾😂 I love my city"

Sh*t Atlanta People Say Part 2, Published on Jan 31, 2012

Warning: This video's discussion thread contains language that I believe is inappropriate for children.
5. RK4LTV, 2014
"Ayyyyyy Bend Over #RK4L Ain't know Trading"
"Bend Over" is the title of one of the songs that is featured as background music in this video. I don't know what the rest of that comment means.

6. cheleski68, 2013
"AAAAAAAAA team natural!!
"AAAAAAA" in this comment is an expression of hilarity.

“Team natural” is what one young man wearing a messed up, obvious wig in this purposely comedic video. The man was wearing a recognizable wig. Note: Men don't usually wear wigs. "Team natural" means a hypothetical club whose members are all Black people who wear their hair in natural styles. After the man in the video said "Team natural", he paused and said "Wait, is a lace front natural?". "Lace front" wigs are certain type of wigs. A number of people commented about how funny these comments were (using African American Vernacular English such as [writing the comments and then using the hashtag "dead" after it- meaning the comment made them "die laughing"]. Those comments are funny in part because of how the man looked, but also because no lace front wig, or any wig for that matter are naturals [hairstyles].

*KeAysha Triplett, 2011
"Wait, is a lacefront natural?

7.kallme paris, 2017
"ayyy live asf"
Reply 1
This example is given to document the widely found letter phrase "af" as f--k" to refer to a superlative (something that is really very very good).
"Live" here is also a high compliment, and means something which is "alive" and full of energy.
Jumping, full of people, exciting. Something was very enjoyable
That rave was live
The place was live

by bL@Z3N 0m3G@ April 30, 2003

The viral meme "ayy lmao" is a later extension of the "ayye" word. Here's information about that meme from
“Ayy LMAO” is an expression and Tumblr hashtag which is almost always associated with pictures of aliens.

The image of the alien has circulated the web since as early as November 2012, appearing on a number of Portuguese and Spanish-language paranormal sites including Tempo Espaço[1], El Gurú[2] and El Rincon Paranormal.[3] Though it is unclear where the photo was first posted, it was referenced on Twitter on March 31st, 2013 in a conversation between two users."...
The "ayy" in "ayy lmao" is usually pronounced like the English word "eye" while "ayye" or "aay" appears to always be pronounced like an elongated English letter "a". And although it's not pertinent to this post, the familiar internet acronym "Lmao" (laughing my ass off" has different pronunciation - each letter may be pronounced separately or "lmao" may be pronounced as a complete word (which is usually given its Portuguese meaning of "lemon".)

Tyrone (or Big Man Tyrone) is one form of the "ayy lmao" meme. Although "Tyrone" has been labeled as an "African American" personal name, the Black man wearing a suit in these "ayy lmao" videos has a non-English (Portuguese?) accent. Here's a 2015 example of a Tyrone ayy lmao video:

tyrone ayy lmao.wmv

Atom032 Published on Oct 19, 2015

big man tyrone attempts alien contact with over-used meme

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  1. Regarding the possible influence of Atlanta, Georgia regarding the use of the term "ayee" ("ayy"), the only first hand experience that I have with this, occurred recently during a "Drum Line" concert in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

    A Black woman and her three teenage daughters sat behind my daughter, my granddaughter, and me and cheerfully shouted "Aaaaaa!" throughout the performance. During intermission, my daughter and I chatted with the women and learned that they had moved to Pittsburgh from Atlanta a few months before this. My daughter asked them why did they shout "Aaaaaa" and they said that's an Atlanta custom when you like a performance.

    I should mention that "aaaaa" wasn't pronounced as a high pitched squeal like the Winston-Salem State University cheerleader yelp (or the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. signature call. Instead, it sounds just like or very similar to the signature word that the Fonz is known for in the 1974-1984 Happy Days television show.

    I'd love to hear more first hand experiences of the use of "aaaaa" ("ayee"; ayy") outside of the internet or telephone texting.

  2. My daughter teaches line dancing at an African American summer school program for middle school students in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

    She just shared with me that during a portion of one of her groups students were tasked with creating their own line dance using Hip Hop dance steps. When each girl or boy danced alone in the middle, the other students shouted in support "Aaaaa!", "Aaaaa!" (pronounced like the letter "a" elonged).

    My daughter said this is like how people used to say "I see you!", "Get it!" or "You betta work it!". She also said that the "Aaaaa!, Aaaaaa!" exclamations were made for every dancer and not only were used to applaud good dancing, but also served the purpose of cheering dancers on and "pump them up", encouraging them to dance even better.

    1. For the record, my daughter also shared that the students who were singing "Aaaaa!" on the sidelines while one person was dancing in the middle of the circle were standing in place but also doing some currently "in" contemporary Hip Hop dance move as they sang/cheered the middle dancer on. However, she doesn't know the name of that dance.

  3. I always wondered if theres a connection between the congolese lingala language "yo" meaning you and the african american "yo" mostly used to get someone's attention. But from my research, apparently people from the congo were not significant in north america

    1. Thanks for your comment, unknown August 8, 2017.

      The word "Yo" is found in other traditional languages besides Lingala.

      For example, here's a link to the 2017 pancocojams post "The Word "Yo" In The West African Languages Temne (Sierra Leone) & Twi (Ghana)"

      However, I don't know if any traditional African language influenced African American's use of the word "Yo".

      Also, I don't agree that "people from the Congo were not significant in North America". Here's a quote from

      "Place of Origin

      80+ percent of all slaves arriving in North America came directly from Africa

      Senegambia—13 percent (coast between present day Senegal and Gambia)
      Gold Coast—16 percent (most of present day Ghana)
      Bight of Biafra—23 percent (most of present day Nigeria and Cameroon))
      Windward Coast—11 percent (present day Liberia and Ivory Coast)
      Region between Angola and Congo—25 percent (present day Congo, Zaire, Angola, Namibia)

      Ports of Arrival
      As popular as DNA is in providing clues to ancestral origins, learning the likely port of entry for one’s African American ancestry will give important clues to their place of origin in Africa. Below are distributions of African origins based upon entry into the U.S. in South Carolina, Virginia, and New Orleans.

      South Carolina

      40 percent of all Africans arrived through Charleston, SC from the following areas:

      Angola/Congo represented 40 percent
      Senegambia represented 19 percent
      Windward Coast represented 16 percent
      Gold Coast represented 13 percent

      And, of course there's the historically documented and culturally important image of Congo Square in New Orleans.

      So yes, more people of African descent who were enslaved in the United States were from West Africa, but that doesn't mean that people from the Congolese region weren't historically significant in the USA (if not Canada) in numbers of enslaved people and in turns of cultural influence.