Yay High – Meaning & Origin

What does it mean for something to be “yay high”? Is this a specific unit of measurement?

We have the answers to all your questions below. We’ll explain the origins of this phrase and exactly how you can use it.

Yay High – Meaning

“Yay high” is an expression used to indicate the size of something, which is normally accompanied by a hand gesture. The original expression is “yea high.” However, “yay high” has emerged as a variant. While “yea high” is technically correct, as this is an idiom, “yay high” is also acceptable.


  • Firstly, “yay high” is an idiom that people use to express the size of an object or being.
  • Secondly, the original version of this phrase is “yea high.”
  • Finally, this phrase is usually accompanied by a hand gesture.

As such, either of the example sentences below would be appropriate:

  • He got beaten up by a group of children that were only about yea high – so embarrassing!
  • Have you seen my boyfriend? He’s about yay high, very cute, and kind of grumpy.

But remember, this expression needs to be accompanied by a hand gesture in order to make sense.

This is because “yay high” is not a specific height – it doesn’t indicate whether something or someone is particularly big or small. Therefore, it’s the accompanying gesture that actually conveys this information.

Yay High – Origin

The expression “yay high” comes from the phrase “yea high.” Moreover, this is an idiom that people use to indicate the size of something by combining it with a hand gesture.

Merriam-Webster defines “yea” as:

  • Informal: to this extent or degree

This is a term derived from Middle and Old English for “yes.” Over time, the derivative “yay high” has emerged from this phrase.

Although “yay” isn’t technically accurate here, because this expression is a type of slang, it’s okay to use the “yay” variant.

In fact, if we check the Google Ngram Viewer, we can see that “yay high” is now used slightly more than “yea high.”

yay high meaning_usage

Furthermore, the first written records of people using this phrase are from the 1950s. As a matter of fact, an article from the San Bernardino Sun in 1956 referred to the expressions “yay tall,” “yay far,” and “yay big” as “teen talk” that parents were likely to be confused by.

Yay High – Synonyms

Here are some alternative ways to say “yay high”:

  • Up to here
  • About this big
  • This tall
  • This long
  • This wide
  • About this high

Phrases Similar to “Yay High”

There are a few variations on “yay high” that are also acceptable to use. We’ve listed these below:

  • Yea high
  • Yay big
  • Yay long
  • Yay tall
  • Yay wide
  • Yea big
  • Yea long
  • Yea tall
  • Yea wide

Incorrect Ways to Use “Yay High”

If you’re using the phrase “yay high” in speech, you should accompany it with a hand gesture to indicate what the height you’re referring to actually is. 

Because, if you don’t do this, the person you’re speaking to won’t actually know what height “yay high” is, as it’s not a standardized measurement.

In What Situations Can You Use “Yay High”?

You can use the phrase “yay high” when you want to demonstrate the height of an object or being.

Moreover, it should always be accompanied by a hand gesture to show the person the height of the subject being spoken about.

The phrase is quite informal, so we wouldn’t recommend using it in formal situations.