Oy and Oi: Not the Same Word

This started as a Facebook status, but was over twice the length of the Facebook status character limit.  So I thought, my not make it longer and add pictures?

It has come to my attention that there is some confusion over the difference between the words “oy” and “oi.”  As someone whose mother went to Hebrew school and someone who listens to the early Dropkick Murphys (pre-Al Barr), let me explain.  “Oy” (often followed by “vey”) is a Jewish expression that is generally used to express something being difficult, frustrating, or annoying, although it can be used to express almost any negative emotion.

“Oi” comes from the British isles, and is generally used there to get someone’s attention (“Oi!  Over here!”), although it was used as a rhythmic sound by some punk bands from the late 80s to the early 2000s (“Oi!  Oi!  Oi!”).

“Oy” carries the same meaning as a heavy sigh in contemporary American usage, while “oi” is more of a “hey!”  “Oy” is a long sound, with the emphasis more on the Y, while “oi” is a short, quick sound, with more emphasis on the O.  I hope this can help clear things up.


About Dave Munson
This blog is about architecture, cities, and myself.

3 Responses to Oy and Oi: Not the Same Word

  1. violettfem says:

    Oi has it’s origins in the punk, working class of England.

  2. liam f says:

    oi thanx m8 :3

  3. Rachel Toviyah-Douglas says:

    Helpful…I just wanted to know how to spell the British one but now come armed with both..I was spelling it ‘Oyi’ a mixture of both of them!..(I’m British with Hebrew/ Mizrahi roots so you can see why!)
    Thanks alot

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