The Meaning of Welp: What It Is and How To Use It

Do you know the definition of welp? This article will provide you with all of the information you need on the word welp, including its definition, etymology, usage, example uses, and more!

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What does the word welp mean?

According to Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language, and Urban Dictionary the word welp is an interjection. This word is an informal variant of the word well, and is used to indicate some form of disappointment, resignation, or acceptance of a situation. This word is often used to begin a sentence. This slang term is very commonly used on social media. The word welp is sometimes spelled well’p, wellp, or whelp, though it has nothing to do with the offspring of a dog. This is basically a combination of the word well and a gulp, and is known as a linguistic shrug. While this may seem like a synonym of the interjection well, well is used to express surprise, welp is used to signal resignation and finality. While you might see the term welp on social media at the beginning of a comment, skip using this one in  a scholarly article or other formal or professional piece of writing. This slang term, along with similar slang words or an abbreviation or acronyms, should be reserved for casual, informal conversation.

How can the word welp be used in a sentence?

The word welp can be used in many different casual sentences on social media or in SMS text message conversations. This word should not be used in professional or formal communications such as letters, business emails, or other less casual circumstances. Below are a few examples of situations in which welp can be used. This word is often used at the beginning of sentences. In this first example, this person is opening his college acceptance letters.

Person 1: Denied, denied, denied. I got denied from every school, including my safety schools. 

Person 2: Welp, there’s always community college. Don’t get discouraged. Plenty of people go to community college first. You’ll save money and get into an even better school!

Person 1: Thanks.

Here, welp is used as a sense of resignation about not getting into college and having to go to a junior college. Next, these two people were planning on going skiing during the winter.

Person 1: I can’t wait to get out there. I’m so excited to hit the slopes.

Person 2: Open the front door.

Person 1: Oh my God. That’s like four feet of snow… Welp, looks like we’re staying in. How do you feel about a movie marathon  followed by hours of video games?

Person 2: I’m down!

Here, the word welp is used as a form of resignation about being snowed in for the day. The word welp is often used when a person is not upset or chooses not to be upset about something. Try using this casual slang word in conversation today. It is the perfect word to use on social media or in a casual text or instant messaging conversation!

What is the origin of the word welp?

According to Slate, the term welp was formed similarly to the sister words yep and nope. All of these words gain a final “p” – yep from yes or yeah, nope from no, welp from well – as a part of the normal process of articulation. This is very common in speech and is called the excrescent p, which results from the mouth’s physical formation of words.  Some people believe that this term comes from the 1994 film Dumb and Dumber starring Jim Carrey in a scene in which Jim Carrey’s character Lloyd interacts with two men drinking Big Gumps outside of a 7-Eleven convenience store. 

However, this is not the true origin. Welp has been used for far longer than this. Some academic studies have seen the word welp used as early as 1946, from the essay in American Speech written by Dwight Bolinger. Boliger states the below:

If the speaker is American, and will observe himself when he utters well as a sign of dismissal of some discussion or activity (as in ‘Well’—pause—‘what do we do next?’), he will often discover that he has used welp, with unfinished p. Like other actions, this gesture of finality may become a mannerism. At a recent graduation one of the officiating deans managed it conspicuously, on turning to go backstage, as from a job dutifully done, after having recited his list of candidates.

Some people, including Grant Barrett from the public radio show A Way With Words, believe that the term welp is so common in American English that if someone doesn’t understand what it means, they are probably an alien. This word has probably gained traction and popularity on social media sites like Twitter because it is excellent at conveying the tone of the word. This is similar to how people use emojis and other slang forms in order to convey tone via text. 

Overall, the slang term welp is a variant of well that is used to convey a sense of resignation at the beginning of a sentence. The use of welp has occurred for a very long time; some postulate that this slang word has been around since the 1940s. This term is commonly used in places where informal language flourished; in recent use, it is common on blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms as a part of a normal process of the evolution of language. While you may not see this term used in prose, you will probably see it on social media outlets or in other places where informal speech and informal writing is used.

Sources:

  1. Welp | Definition of Welp | Dictionary.com 
  2. ‘Welp,’ There’s a Word We’re Watching | Merriam-Webster 
  3. Welp | Urban Dictionary 
  4. “Welp,” slang term, has longer history than you might think. | Slate