Why Do Sailors Say Aye Aye?

Last Updated on August 31, 2023

Why do Sailors and Marines say “Aye Aye” Sir/Ma’am?

In the United States Navy and Marine Corps, the only acceptable response to a lawful order is Aye Aye. It means, “I understand the order and will comply with the command promptly”.

Sailors and Marines say Aye Aye to superiors, especially to Naval Officers and Marine Officers (most especially to the Ship’s Captain), as a positive acknowledgment of a lawful order. They don’t respond to orders with Yes Sir/Ma’am because that implies an option to say No.

Navy Sailors and Marines only respond Yes or No to questions, not to lawful orders. Strict compliance with the Chain of Command is a matter of life and death onboard a ship at sea.

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Origin of the Term Aye Aye

The exact origin of the term Aye Aye in naval response remains unclear. Perhaps it’s been lost in history. “Aye Aye Captain” is a popular use of this term.

But here are some theories of its origin:

  1. Aye may have been derived from the Olde English word “ay”, which means “ever” (Oxford English Dictionary).
  2. This affirmative naval expression may have been a derivative of the British words Yea Yea. Apparently, the Cockney accents changed the Yea Yea to Y-eye Y-eye. Said fast and often enough, the term eventually transitioned to Aye Aye.
  3. Aye might have originated from the old Latin verb “aio”, which means “I say yes”.
  4. From the old British Navy (and UK House of Commons), Aye Aye literally meant Yes Yes. Another variation is to replace the first Aye with “I”, meaning “I say yes”.

Why Do Sailors Say Aye Aye Captain? If you don’t know, now you know…

If you found yourself interested in experiencing this response from millions of people, check out this article about how to become a Naval Officer.

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