Definition of yo-yo in English:



trademark in UK
  • 1A toy consisting of a pair of joined discs with a deep groove between them in which string is attached and wound, which can be spun alternately downward and upward by its weight and momentum as the string unwinds and rewinds.

    • ‘Mitchell Wan is one of this rare breed of self-confessed yo-yo fanatics.’
    • ‘The yo-yos are pretty cool.’
    • ‘A self-identified yo-yo fanatic, he's one of a hundred official Coca-Cola yo-yo collectors in this country.’
    • ‘Having arthritis is like having a yo-yo for a body.’
    • ‘Like the yo-yo, the hula hoop, and the Mohican haircut, vehicle fads come and go.’
    • ‘Children's games include kite-flying, spinning tops, yo-yos, and hobbyhorses.’
    • ‘Because the kids will be housed in DannyMart day care, there will be no need for yo-yos, squirt guns and other toys to clutter the shelves.’
    • ‘It is something like the toy we call a yo-yo: you play with it and make it spin, but there is always a string attached.’
    • ‘Teams of yo-yo experts came to Australia to demonstrate the toy in the early years and the rest is history.’
    • ‘It's like a yo-yo made in China with a string that breaks within 2 seconds of it being unfurled.’
    1. 1.1[often as modifier]A thing that repeatedly falls and rises again.
      ‘the yo-yo syndrome of repeatedly losing weight and gaining it again’
      • ‘After 20 years of yo-yo light dieting, Butler joined Overeater's Anonymous and started to take control.’
      • ‘With just four games remaining, City look in grave danger of re-capturing their unwanted yo-yo tag of recent years.’
      • ‘We are a yo-yo culture, a culture of mood swings.’
      • ‘I'm a yo-yo dieter.’
      • ‘A seasoned Weight Watchers member, Fiona already enjoyed a reasonably good diet but was still plagued by the all too familiar yo-yo syndrome.’
      • ‘Now seriously committed to stopping the yo-yo syndrome, Jacqui is making amazing progress.’
      • ‘Fad diets only add to the confusion and contribute to the yo-yo syndrome so many of us experience.’
      • ‘As for food, yo-yo diets, involving periods of near starvation, damage valuable muscle and are positively unhealthy.’
      • ‘You'll stabilize your appetite, which is in yo-yo mode from all the extra sugar.’
      • ‘The ultimate yo-yo team in recent seasons, Nottinghamshire have made some astute signings over the winter.’
      • ‘If you're overweight, lose it, as this increases uric acid levels, but do it slowly as crash and yo-yo dieting can mean the kidneys retain uric acid.’
      • ‘Research continues as to whether yo-yo dieting is dangerous to cardiovascular health.’
      • ‘She swapped a lifetime of yo-yo diets and calorie counting for a healthy-eating regime after walking down the aisle in August 1999 in a size 22 wedding gown.’
      • ‘I have witnessed failures from low-carb diets after 6 months to 1 year; in fact, a yo-yo effect may be much more common than many people may realize.’
    2. 1.2North American informal A stupid, insane, or unpredictable person.
      idiot, ass, halfwit, nincompoop, blockhead, buffoon, dunce, dolt, ignoramus, cretin, imbecile, dullard, moron, simpleton, clod
      View synonyms


  • 1 Move up and down; fluctuate.

    ‘popularity polls yo-yo up and down with the flow of events’
    • ‘Hearts were relegated in 1977 and spent six years yo-yoing between the Premier League and the First Division before resurfacing as a competitive force in the mid-1980s.’
    • ‘While stockmarkets yo-yo around the world, the gravy train is picking up speed in one sector of the economy.’
    • ‘The brothers had spectacularly yo-yoing lives, but all the expeditions to far-flung places and fraternal love-hatred have not been harnessed into a shapely book.’
    • ‘City now are an established Premiership side after years of yo-yoing and have a healthy crop of young players coming through the ranks.’
    • ‘Now 41 years old, her weight has yo-yoed since she was 12, when her mother left her father to marry another man and move to Argentina.’
    • ‘Over the next five years, Laura's weight yo-yoed and she began eating high-fat foods more often.’
    • ‘Bear markets have more to do with uncertainty than with decisive gloom, and yo-yoing shares are the clearest possible evidence of that.’
    • ‘In college, my weight yo-yoed between 140 and 185 pounds.’
    • ‘He was beginning to yo-yo between two other women.’
    • ‘My weight yo-yoed between 170 and 180 pounds.’
    • ‘Caley Thistle came into the match on thumping good form after thrashing Raith Rovers, but have the knack of yo-yoing from spectacular results to disappointment.’
    • ‘Establish yourselves as a new unit rather than becoming the property of two families and yo-yoing between them.’
    • ‘Rough weather - wind and rain and yo-yoing wind direction - has made it tough for anglers to find and catch those fish.’
    • ‘The next few months saw Williams yo-yoing in and out of hospital.’
    oscillate, swing, fluctuate, alternate, see-saw, veer, waver, sway, go from one extreme to the other, vary, vacillate, teeter, hover
    wobble, blow hot and cold
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1[with object]Manipulate or maneuver (someone or something)
      ‘I don't want the job if it means he gets to yo-yo me around’
      • ‘I don't want to be the girl that's yo-yoed on a string, made to believe she's something she's not.’


Early 20th century: of unknown origin.