Word Confusion: Yoke versus Yolk

Posted June 23, 2014 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

Revised as of 13 October 2017

The graphic images that are aroused in me when an author confuses a yoke with a yolk are, well, messy. Admittedly, the yoke being mentioned is usually the neck-and-shoulders portion of a shirt or dress — which tells you just how sticky it appears in my imagination! Nor can I see oxen pulling a plow with sunny, runny, yellow egg embryos dripping down their shoulders… Nor do those runny yolks seem sturdy enough! Either scenario makes me want to run for some rags and a bucket of water!

Now, I realize that yoke and yolk are considered alternative spellings for each other, but that excuse doesn’t cut the mustard, with me anyway. At least, I’m hoping that the majority of readers out there would interpret the most common (and current) definitions.

In the meantime, can you imagine if these words were switched? Of someone confusing a yolk for a yoke?

I don’t care how long you boil that yoke or if you wanna fry it up in a pan, I ain’t never gonna eat it.

Word Confusions…

…started as my way of dealing with a professional frustration with properly spelled words that were out of context in manuscripts I was editing as well as books I was reviewing. It evolved into a sharing of information with y’all. I’m hoping you’ll share with us words that have been a bête noir for you from either end.

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Yoke Yolk
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com; Dictionary.com: yoke and yolk

“Bullock Yokes” (circa 1950) is Cgoodwin’s own work under the GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 licenses, via Wikimedia Commons

“Yolks” by Paul Goyette is under the CC-BY-SA-2.0 license, via Wikimedia Commons

Part of Grammar:
Noun 1, 2
Verb 3, intransitive & transitive

Plural for the noun: yoke (2 oxen);
yokes (1 ox or 3 to 20 oxen)
Alternative spelling: yolk

Third person present verb: yokes
Past tense or past participle: yoked
Gerund or present participle: yoking

Plural: yolks
Alternative spelling: yoke
Obsolete spelling: yelk
Wooden crosspiece fastened over the necks of two animals and attached to a plow or cart they are to pull 1

  • A pair of animals coupled together with a yoke
  • [Archaic] The amount of land that one pair of oxen could plow in a day
  • A frame fitting over the neck and shoulders of a person, used for carrying pails or baskets
  • Used of something that is regarded as oppressive or burdensome
  • Used of something that represents a bond between two parties

Something resembling or likened to a yoke, in particular:

  • A fitted part of a garment, especially around the neck, shoulders, chest, or around the hips to which a gathered, pleated, flared, or unfitted part is attached
  • The crossbar at the head of a rudder, to whose ends ropes are fastened
  • A bar of soft iron between the poles of an electromagnet
  • [In ancient Rome] An arch of three spears under which a defeated army was made to march
  • [Chiefly North American] A control lever in an aircraft

[Irish; informal] A thing whose name one cannot recall, does not know, or does not wish to specify 2

[Irish slang] Ecstasy pills

Verb, intransitive:
To be or become joined, linked, or united

Verb, transitive:
Put a yoke on a pair of animals

  • Couple or attach with or to a yoke
    • To attach a draft animal to a plow or vehicle
    • To harness a draft animal to (a plow or vehicle

[Slang] Rob or mug a person

  • To rob with violence
  • Rob and mutilate

[Obsolete] To bring into subjection or servitude

The yellow internal part of a bird’s egg, which is surrounded by the white, is rich in protein and fat, and nourishes the developing embryo

  • [Zoology] The corresponding part in the ovum or larva of all egg-laying vertebrates and many invertebrates

[Embryology] The part of the contents of the egg of an animal that enters directly into the formation of the embryo, together with any material that nourishes the embryo during its formation

The essential part

  • The inner core

A natural grease exuded from the skin of sheep

Get the yoke on those oxen.

Many Western-style shirts have a shaped yoke.

We’ll only need a yoke of oxen to plow this yoke.

It was so much easier to carry two pails of water with a yoke.

It is the yoke of imperialism that has kept us down!

Men frequently joke about the yoke of marriage.

The pilot uses the yoke to control the attitude of the plane.

How much did that yoke set you back?

Verb, intransitive:
Jim and Karen got yoked this morning.

The oxen were yoked together.

“Believers are admonished not to allow themselves to be yoked together with unbelievers for the purpose of accomplishing an immoral task” (Nullifying Tyranny: Creating Moral Communities in an Immoral Society, 21).

Verb, transitive:
A camel and donkey yoked together is a recipe for disaster.

Hong Kong’s dollar has been yoked to America’s.

Yoke up those oxen!

Two crackheads yoked this girl.

They decided to yoke the old man with the hearing aid.

Wow, these eggs have some pretty big yolks!

Controversy rages back and forth over whether yolks are good or bad for you.

A yolk has 70 calories.

Merino sheep are remarked for the quantity of yolk they exude.

“The shell represents the earth’s 35-km (22 mile)- thick (or less) crust on which we walk and live. The egg white represents the 2,850- km (1770 mile)- thick mantle, the source of heat for Hawaiian and other hot spot volcanoes, and the yolk represents the 3,500-km (2172 mile) -thick core” (USGS: Hawaiian Volcano Observatory).

Adjective: yokeless, well-yoked Adjective: yolked, yolkless, yolky
History of the Word:
Old English geoc1, geocian3 is of Germanic origin and related to the Dutch juk, the German Joch, from an Indo-European root shared by the Latin jugum and Greek zugon, also by the Latin jungere meaning to join.

2 Early 20th century and is of unknown origin.

Old English geol(o)ca, from geolu meaning yellow.

C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves?

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Pinterest Photo Credits

Lesson 30: The Yoke of Babylon from The Pursuit of God.com (pending permission) and Fried Egg, Sunny Side Up by David Benbennick, which is in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

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