Posted by Masakim on February 25, 2004
In Reply to: Re: Yonks posted by Henry on February 25, 2004
: : : what does "yonks" mean?
: : : I know it relates to time, having to wait "yonks"
: : I found it in two on-line English-English dictionaries but not in their American-English counterparts.
: : YONKS: noun [U] UK OLD-FASHIONED INFORMAL
: : a very long time, usually a number of years:
: : How is Gareth? I haven't seen him for yonks!(from Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary)
: : http://dictionary.cambridge.org/
: : YONKS n. Quite simply, a long time. Not a specific length of time at all; it could be minutes or decades. Good examples would be "Where have you been? I've been waiting here for yonks!" or "Met a friend from school the other day who I haven't seen for yonks."
: : http://english2american.com/dictionary/y.html#yonks
: Here's an unusual yet plausible explanation for the word; it comes from Years, mONths, weeKs and dayS. It's a strange coincidence if it isn't true! Any other ideas?
Many people have told me that they have been told, or assume, that it is a corrupted form of _aeons_. Others say that they have heard it is an anagram of "Year, mONth, weeKS". These are intriguing and inventive speculations, but I suspect strongly that they are the usual well-meant attempts at finding an origin where none is known. The anagrammatic origin is too convoluted to be plausible (and virtually all attempts at finding anagram sources turn out to be specious, anyway).
A few reference books suggest that it might be a clipped version of _donkey's years_, also meaning a long time. This sounds quite daft on first hearing, but if you think about it, you can see how the _onk_ of _donkey_ might just have been prefixed by the _y_ of _years_, perhaps as conscious or unconscious back slang. Another way of looking at it is that the source was a spoonerism on _donkey's years_ - _yonkey's dears_, from which _yonks_ arose by clipping. It's only a theory, mind - nobody knows for sure one way or the other.
From "World Wide Words" (November 16, 2002)