Other Latin languages (that I am aware of at least) use "si". I know that there is a "si" also in French that is used to answer questions posed in a negative way, but it surprises me the usage of the word "oui" in the other more predominant cases. So, what are the roots of the word "oui"?

  • At least another Latin language doesn't use si. In Corsican, yes is 'ie' /j'e/ which comes from Latin ille est, Tuscan Gli è = "That is".
    – jlliagre
    Commented Nov 5, 2015 at 8:13

3 Answers 3


I found what you are looking for here:

La forme primitive est oïl, toujours dissyllabe, et formée du latin hoc illud, oui cela (hoc ayant pris le sens de oui : Ne dit ne o ne non, R. de Cambrai 264) ; oïl est donc fait comme nennil, qui représente non illud, non cela. Picard, awi ; Berry, voui ; wallon, awoi, dans lequel Grandgagnage regarde l'a comme prosthétique ; bourguig. vouei ; différents dialectes cités par Grandgagnage ai, âï, oï. On trouve dans les anciens textes, quoique rarement, des formes singulières de ce mot : oal, ouail, ol, odil.


The original form (of oui) is oïl, and which is compoused of the latin words hoc illud meaning oui cela (hoc became oui).

oïl is made like the word nennil which represents non illud meaning non cela.

It is spoken as:

Different dialects mentioned by Grandgagnage: ai, âï, .

We can also rarely find in ancient texts very typical forms of oui: oal, ouail, ol, odil

  • I can translate you what I quoted, if you ask me.
    – user6768
    Commented Nov 5, 2015 at 7:52
  • that would be great Commented Nov 5, 2015 at 10:34
  • 1
    Une note pour votre information. L'extrait présenté provient directement de la section étymologie du Littré que Dicocitations copie. Merci.
    – user3177
    Commented Nov 6, 2015 at 4:24

To expand a little ...

First, there was no word for "yes" in Latin. If you wanted to express an affirmation you had to say something explicit, although perhaps terse. E.g. "etiam" ("indeed" or "as always"), "ita est" ("that's it"), "sic est" ("it is thus"), "est" ("it is"), "hoc illic" ("this is it"), etc.

During the Middle Ages the Latin/Romance dialects developed explicit words for "yes" (presumably because other languages that influenced them like Gothic had such a concept). But since there was no single word in Latin they went in different directions, hence the different words. In parts of Spain and Italy the expression "sic est", abbreviated to "sic", became "sí" (and "sim"). In southern France, "hoc illic", abbreviated to "hoc", became "oc". In northern France, "hoc illic" morphed into "oc il'", "oil", and finally "oui"; but they also picked up the "si" thing as well. In Romania, they picked up "da", obviously from Slavic. Sardinian has "eja"; I don't know where that comes from.

Ref: https://books.google.com/books?id=lKERAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA186


The word « si » does exist in French still and is used to contradict negative assertions.

  • Vous n'êtes pas d'ici!
  • Si, je suis né ici.
  • Did you read this part of the question: "I know that there is a "si" also in French that is used to answer questions posed in a negative way" ?
    – jlliagre
    Commented Nov 10, 2015 at 6:54
  • Oops! I guess not. I like the word so much I just had to write about it without rereading your question. My bad.
    – zabouti
    Commented Nov 11, 2015 at 13:49

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