As a noun, ‘yoke’ refers to a wooden bar used to connect two farm animals (usually cattle or draft horses) so they can pull a cart or plough together:
The yoke was heavy on the horses’ necks.
But you can also use this word in figurative sense, where it refers to a restriction or burden placed on a person or group of people:
After three years, she threw off the yoke of marriage.
The people lived under the yoke of slavery.
In addition, you can use ‘yoke’ as a verb to describe the act of putting a yoke on someone or something. This can be either literal (i.e. the agricultural tool mentioned above) or figurative (i.e. an unfair restriction). For instance:
The farmer yoked the cattle ready for ploughing.
They had been yoked by marriage for twenty years.
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However you use this word, though, it is always spelled ‘yoke’.
Yolk (The Middle of an Egg)
‘Yolk’ is a noun that refers to the yellow bit in the middle of an egg:
He likes his egg yolks runny.
The embryonic bird feeds on the yolk as it develops.
The recipe says to separate the yolk from the white.
The word comes from an Old English word meaning ‘yellow’.
Summary: Yoke or Yolk?
These words sound similar, but they have very different meanings:
Yoke can be a noun or a verb. As a noun, it refers to a wooden bar connecting two farm animals or a figurative restriction placed on someone. As a verb, it means ‘put a yoke on someone or something’ (either literally or figuratively).
Yolk is always a noun and refers to the yellow middle part of an egg.
If you struggle to remember which is which, think of a hen laying an egg to remind you that ‘yolk’ has an ‘l’ in it. And if you’d like any more help with your writing, you can get your work proofread by our expert editors.