YANKEE, the slang or colloquial name given to a citizen of the New England states in America, and less correctly applied, in familiar European usage, to any citizen of the United States. It was used by the British soldiers of their opponents during the War of Independence, and during the Civil War by the Confederates of the Federal troops and by the South of the North generally. The origin of the name has given rise to much speculation. In Dr William Gordon's History cf lite American War (ed. 1789, i. 324) it is said to have been a cant word at Cambridge, Mass., as early as 1713, where it was used to express excellency, and he quotes such expressions as " a Yankee good horse." Webster gives the earliest recorded use of its accepted meaning, from Oppression, a Poem by an American (Boston, 1765), " From meanness first this Portsmouth Yankee rose," and states that it is considered to represent the Indian pronunciation of " English " or Anglais, and was applied by the' Massachusetts Indians to the English colonists. On the other hand, the Scots " yankie," sharp or clever, would seem more probable as the origin of the sense represented in the Cambridge expression. Other suggestions give a Dutch origin to the name. Thus it may be a corruption of " Jankin," diminutive of " Jan," John, and applied as a nickname to the English of Connecticut by the Dutch of New York. Skeat (Etym. Diet., 1910) quotes a Dutch captain's name, Yanky, from Dampier's Voyages (ed. 1699, i. 38), and accepts the theory that " Yankee " was formed from Jan, John, and Kees. a familiar diminutive of Cornelius (H. Logeman, Notes and Queries, lolh series, iv. 509, v. 15).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)