Hello came into existence in the mid-1800s. It is an alteration of hallo, which was an alteration of holla or hollo. These words were used to attract immediate attention and demand that the listener come to a stop or cease what he or she was doing. Hallo was used to incite hunting dogs.
Hello gained widespread usage though the increased use of the telephone. Alexander Graham Bell had originally suggested the telephone greeting ahoy. But the greeting that stuck was hello, which may have been suggested by Thomas Edison. Hello-girls were the name for the the central telephone exchange operators.
Hullo is the interjection used in Great Britian. However, hello has become just as common.
A more modern use of the word calls into question the common sense or comprehension of the person being addressed. For example, “You’re actually going to eat that rotten peach?! Hello!”
One might assume that hi is an abbreviation of hello. In fact, the first recorded use of hi as a greeting comes from an 1862 speech given by a Kansas Indian. It is also thought that hi is probably a variant of the Middle English hy.
The upbeat greeting howdy was first recorded as a contraction of “how do you do” in 1632. An earlier version comes from “how do ye.”
Wow! This was pretty interesting!
I’m always finding that I learn new things from these articles.
Keep up the good work!
Hello! All of the links in the last paragraph are broken!
Hello and thanks! Great article.
Hello! You’re last list is broken
Very interesting article!
Thankyou for the kind information
Howdy and hullo there,
What about ‘Hey!”????
interesting and educational. Thank you !!!
Actually…..in England we say ‘hallo’ not ‘hullo’. There is some speculation that the word originated from the word ‘hail’ – a common greeting.
Hullo, Loved this article.
”Hullo is the interjection used in Great Britian. However, hello has become just as common.”
I am British and live there (or here!) and can’t say i’ve ever been aware of ‘hullo’ being used. Although hello and hullo,depending where you are, may pretty much sound the same depending on the regional accent and as accents in Britian can sound very different from town to town maybe i’m showing my ignorance and should stop typing now. Goodbye.
Well, now, “holla” sounds like it is from African American culture. Ebonics is not so ebonics, after all.
Ahoy! Fair winds! This is cool, thanks.
Hi, thanks for sharing such an interesting article ,I love to get knowledge from these articles.
Indwed quite informative
The last thing wasn’t really nessecary.
[...] “HELLO” — We love that word — a “HI” or maybe “Howdy” — “Good Morning” as a greeting too — unless it’s evening then it seems to rowdy. — PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, unless your authentic and you really mean it, DON’T ASK us how we’re doing or “how are ya” cause we’ll answer “Who are you screwing?”–>>Rupert L.T.Rhyme [...]
Hello i am glad you put this out here for people like me to read this cant wait till the next one
I’m going to start saying “ahoy” when I answer the phone. It never dawned on me, but asking “hello?” when you answer the phone doesn’t make much sense.
Love HOTWORD! Way cool guys and gals. Keep it up.
this is a really great article. this is my first time coming to your blog and I am really impressed. Keep up the good work
Very interesting article, but I’m from Great Britain, and the only place I’ve seen the word “hullo” written is in certain Harry Potter novels. To my knowledge we use “hello” as exclusively as the rest of the English-speaking world.
Here are my definitions of “swearing”, “cursing” and “cussing”:
Swearing means to promise that something is true: example- “I swear on Jesus’ wounds that I didn’t drink your beer!”
Cursing means to wish bad for someone, to send them bad through words: example- “She cursed him for not returning her love.”
Cussing grew off of “cursing”, and is largely considered slang, or informal.
I think I’ll prefer howdy in the future. Hi is also Danish… they say hi hi for goodbye.
Hmmmmm ….. I thought the word “Howdy” came from the TV show in the late 40’s and early 50’s , “Howdy Doody.”
Furthermore, “Hi” originated in the early 1900’s. That’s when the use of drugs was uncommon. “Hi” began as a way for one user to communicate his preference for drugs seeruptiously with another user. The word was shortened to “hi” for purposes of written commination.
1. Either by Doyle’s design or by Hollywood, Sherlock Holmes (purportedly Brit.) says, “Hello,” when he comes upon striking-new evidence….
2. “Hello,” on the telephone, and as an attention-getter, is probably 50% ‘kechap-word’ as a vowel-shortened-reemphasis-contraction of, Hey!-Lo!.
3. French children learn something like falsetto-”Hoo’oo!” to get attention. (cf American “Hey!”)
4. The Kansan indian “Hi” is indubitably related to the more-general “Hao” (Hollywood, “How”) with the hand raised in a Sumero-Egyptian-handsignage “H” (incomplete Hao; Follow the sub-link)… Hao, meant H-A-O(‘W’), The outflow (of the) distant-extent, i.e. Let’s talk.
5. The word, “Danger!” comes to us from the Sumerian, dingir, any god, a field-goer (Edin-g’r), and is to impress you that when you approach any god you go afield: you-go-around: “Dingir! Dingir! Aliens, approaching!”
6. The immigrant-lady buyer says to the builder: “Wheh’ da halo statue?”
The builder foreman personally installs a statue of Jesus under a halo.
The immigrant-lady buyer says “No, No, You know: Ring Ring Halo statue?”
A little too late to realize that we’ve been using the wrong word, don’t you think? Well, I don’t think it will cause any alteration to our customs. I’ll continue to say “hello” unless they turn it into a curse word along with all the “common” words that English speakers have come up with as curse word over the years. You can’t even watch an old black & white movie or a show like “I love Lucy” without saying “wow, that’s a curse word nowadays” at least three times during the show! o_0
That was an awesome bit of information. Thanks!
I’m going to have to start using “How do ye,” now.
What about the origins of other contractions of Hello? Like Ello (as the British say) and Hey?
Ahoy ! Its better than hola kkk~
And then, in Mexico they answer the phone with “Bueno”, which I’m told came from the beginning of phone usage when you reassure the caller that the connection is “bueno”, or good. My husband still answers the phone that way even though we have been back in the U.S. for over a year…
It all sounds like a bit of ” gobbledygook.
I can do one better; the explanation is NOT complete.
Hell-o is in fact a shortened form of “Hail thou” which literally means “calling you” or technically “I have heard you, and am responding”, or in the street, “I am greeting you”. As anyone knows from basic Mandarin, the Chinese wrap all this up succinctly. “Hello, how are you?” translates into Chinese “Ni hao ma” which literally translates back into English as “You well?”. Thanks.
With regard to saying “Hi!”, this comes from the simple word “high”, which we all know means “up there” or “on top”. Hence “Hi” is a very short form of saying “Top of the morning to you!” as used in the British Isles. It may be of interest to know that the polite “Good morning” equivalent in Chinese is “Zao shang hao” which literally translates as “morning top good”, which seems to suggest that the politeness of “Top of the morning to you”, simple friendliness of “Hi” and the Mandarin as explained, all have commonality. Thanks.
I wonder how many people are actually posting their comments. Anyway salute to you.
“konyanyachiwa” is what one dupe cartoon character would say hello. I forgot which cartoon that one was from.
“Not Found” error following the link at the end (“cussing, swearing and cursing?”)
Otherwise, good article.
Seems totally wrong to me. Anyone who’s studied Old Norse language or culture will tell you that their old word “heill” (pronounced “hail”) is related directly to the modern “hello”, because it comes directly down through the same Germanic language family. Back as far as that, the meaning as a greeting is clear due to the meaning of “whole”, “hale”, “healthy”. Saying “heill” was short for “may you be well”. Saying “hello” in English is the same greeting–”health to you”.
I feel so much more enlightened now that I have read this article. I think you kindly for posting this, Dictionary.com operators. The public owes you much grattitude.
~LOL I sounded so sophisticated!!! L8R!!!!!!!
Whooops…… Thanks to Hotword for posting this……… and Dictionary.com staff for making it possible….. wow i feel really dumb now…:(
Origins of “hello” and a story of a scientist
August 22, 2007
Excerpt from the Budapest Pocket Guide:
[...] According to Edison „Tivadar Puskás was the first person to suggest the idea of a telephone exchange” Puskás’s idea finally became a reality in 1877 in Boston. It was then that the word „ hallom „ which later became the word „hallo / hello” so familiar to us all was used for the first time in a telephone conversation when on hearing the voice of the person at the other end of the line an exultant Puskás shouted out in Hungarian „hallom” „I hear you.” In 1879 he set up a telephone exchange in Paris where he looked after Thomas Edison’s European affairs for the next four years.
As was stated, the last three links are broken. As for profanity (commonly referred to as “swearing” or “swears”), I think that I would agree. In fact, in my opinion, profanity has become [virtually] the world’s second language. I feel that this is quite unfortunate. There are many ways to express feelings (generally. of anger, frustration or discontentment) that da not involve the use of profanity (such as ugh or oh man). Many (dare I say most) shy array from these and use profanity instead. In regard to “hey,” I guess there are also “what’s up?,” “good-bye” and “bye.”
That makes me wonder where greetings such as “Hey” and “Yo” came from.
Interesting… Very interesting…
thanks for the info..i often used the word to stop someone,who do,or say something that i don’t like…i am a filipino…”hello”
Hi or Hello or Howdy??? Very interesting information. Thanks!
Traditional Cornish have a greeting “Dry Time Boy!” (Regardless of gender or state of the weather) sure there must be other regional variations?
The blog entry as well as the debated comments on the origins of Hello and Hi were very interesting and educational. I’m sure we’ve all got a kick out of learning something new from the perspectives here.
But for the educated peoples giving their perspective, please don’t sit there and present your side as though we should know basic Mandarin or studied Old Norse. Even though the sides are appreciated, it tends to thwart the air of discovery and illumination. I highly enjoyed your points regardless.
Very interesting article i really love the way you do it … everyday i start my day reading your artical …
hullo he cool! but wats with the last bit?
hello , i thought it came from the word hell
Thank you very much. New learning.
cool… its tru wat they say, u lern sumfin nue everydae (nxt wek im doin spelin lol:) laterz
i like dis artical…
The etymology of words tells you one thing and a circimstance words are used tells you another. When people say hello, there are many occasions to use that word. Firstly it is a salute acknowleding one another-it is very friendly way of communictating and a lubrication among society members. It does not matter as long as you say hello with a smile on your face when you say it to someone you despise, then that magic word ‘hello’ works. Secondly, as an article mentions, focusing on someone’s ineptitude–personally I nerver employed this kind of usage of word in real life but only do so in my mind when I come across someone totally annoys me. Thirdly, which is the one I am particulary interested, that is when one addresses to some strangers in street or anywhere to ask directions where one wishes to get to. In this case ‘hello’ is as good as ‘excuse me’ or ‘pardon me’, and you feel good when you get a good response.
Its a great information..
Nice thanks for increasing my knowledge everytime.
[...] Dictionary.com has a blog feature, where they discuss interesting facts about words, and the one on Monday was about the word hello. [...]
The word Hello sounds like the word “Hallo” or “Hallom” in Hungarian. So we Hungarians can be pretty sure that the word originates in the Hungarian Hallom, as it was Puskas Tivadar the scientist himself who suggested the telephone exchange first, and he actually shouted out with excitement “Hallom!” which is “I can hear!”.
Is all that a coincidence? We badly need an authority in the matter to decide for us.
However, all the other explanations are interesting, thanks for all posts.
Of course all I could think about while reading this was “Helllooooooooo!!!” from Seinfeld…
I heard close to 30 years ago that the words hello and hi came from Old English greetings. When passing another on the street, it was common to greet each other with one of two phrases. 1) “Heaven is high” or 2) “Hell is low” And thus, the greetings Hi and Hello came about. So, what do you have to say about that?
Let me give you more info!
While growing up in a remote village in India, we used to say (to this day my mom and people in many villages use the term)”Halla” which means making noise. If a few kids are playing nearby and making noise, an adult might come and say, “Do not make Halla here!”
I know for sure those Indians in those remote places have never ever gone anywhere. Therefore the word Halla is originally from India (Hindi language) and I think Hello comes from it!
The word “Hi.” Just to add up something more:
We back in India years ago also used to write as “Hay” that might be more be more appropriate. That will be a short form of “How Are You”
No one in the UK ever says or writes “hullo”. Where do you get this rubbish? Wikipedia?
OMG tis is so cool! I cant
belive this is true!!!!!!!!!!!
It would be interesting to put a time line together on all of these bits of information to see how the word(s) travel through history, and where.. I’m sure once that is done, you would be able to make up a story about the entire history of the words, and we would all be right. I’m betting that it has something to do with the crusades and colonisation..
i personally think that it went from hello to hey to hi, and the word keeps abbreviating that someday it’ll just be ‘h’
[...] — though a WISH is better than robotic inquisition such as “How are you?” — That silliness still don’t fly. — Some interactive “Tradition” — if positive like the butterfly’s [...]
Interesting topic, just a few questions:
1) The article states that Thomas Edison “may have” suggested “Hello” for telephone greetings, assuming from the context because of the “Hello-girls” for operator service–Thomas Edison was the inventor of the light bulb, although both Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell were living during the early 1900’s, how or why was Thomas Edison involved with telephone service?
2) And would you happen to know where Thomas Edison got the idea to use “Hello” as a greeting?
3) Also, oddly, swearing is brought up at the end of the article, not sure why but, since it was brought up–WHAT IS the difference between cussing, swearing, and cursing?
Loved this article, but you forgot to mention the greeting “yello”. As a kid I always heard my dad answer the phone this way. My siblings and I thought it was strange, but to dad that was the proper way to answer the phone and he thought nothing of it. Thanks!
To JanetJ2010: Please see my post (CICA) of August 9, 8:13 pm. I address your questions 1 and 2.
RE (‘back, again’) …
1. Dictionary.com lists several more: “Halloa, hallo, halloo, hallow, hillo, hilloa, hullo, hulloo.”
2. Research on Hallo (Ahoy) etc. indicates it was the sound used to call or recall the dogs to hunt: hence it had derived from the French, Allons (Let’s go), which has a nasal-N that does not shout, whence it was ALLO! And the ‘H’ made it linguistically natural peculiar: ‘This-is-the-Allo’.
Consequently the linguistic-diminutive, Hello, is just ‘The small call’.
3. It might be up to 75%-kechap-word derivative, cf Hawaiian, “Aloha.”
4. Hello, might be related to the root, Hallu-, as, Image/Imagine that!
5. “Yello,” might be an indication of generally poor audio connection.
6. “Yo!” is probably 25%-kechap-word-derived from the Navy, “Yoe–man!”
7. As for answering the telephone, Some say,–
RING RING RING RING–
ANSWER: “It’s your, dime–!”
CALLER: “I’m sorry: Did I awaken you?”
ANSWER: “No problem– I had to get up and answer the telephone, anyway.”
CALLER: “Oh, Excuse me, Shall I call you again, later?”
ANSWER: “That depends…”
CALLER: “On what…?”
ANSWER: “On who’s calling me.”
CALLER: “Who’s calling you what–?”
Answering the phone with “yello” was humor that started in the 60’s. Your dad must be a baby boomer. Am I correct?
RING, RING, RING,
I’M SORRY, WRONG NUMBER.
I would like to know the complete definition of “hi”, in the orginal text it was said it was a native Indian greeting, what was the meaning if it was from my fractioned ancestory, what was the “Indian” saying
Very interesting topic the ‘hello’ & ‘hi’ through your aptly named ‘hot word’. Thank you all who made it possible to be so interesting.
These articles are certainly a knowledge upgrade!!! I am loving these.
The “hello-girl” thing reminded me of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court when the narrator names his daughter Hello-Central. Cool article!
Thomas Edison didn’t “invent” the lightbulb. He stole the idea and had the original inventor disappear from the face of the earth…as he did with all of his “inventions”.
Catalyste: It doesn’t take Old Norse, that just happens to be my background, and a completely dilettante, internet-educated background at that. A quick look at the meanings of the few German words that English-speaking North Americans know from movies set in WWII would have given the info I gave.
And I don’t think it’s unfair to think that those writing specifically about word etymology on a dictionary website, setting themselves as experts in the field, should actually be so, or at least know as much as an interested amateur. I’m not trying to be harsh, be seriously–why shouldn’t someone who writes about word origins be expected to research them?
i have always preferred to use the word “holla” but often gets a strange look or response. this is a great and very informative article.keep up them coming, please.
ENLIGHTENING, I MUST SAY… HELLO?
And um… I clicked on this redirect for some hope of a mention of how the word “hello” and hunting dogs have a shared history.
Not a mention.
I’m disappointed. Love your blog, though, and its thought inducing (other than as relates to hunting dogs and hello) traits…
“Hullo is the interjection used in Great Britian.”
Should be “Britain”. Just pointing out.
@ Charles Allsop:
> Hence “Hi” is a very short form of saying “Top of the morning to you!” as used in the British Isles.
They say “Top of the morning to you!” in the British Isles, do they? Just like they say “Ciao” in Poland, “Bonjour” in Sweden and “Buenos dias” in France.
Charles, you do know that the so-called British Isles consists of at least 8 different recognised native languages and a corresponding or greater number of native ethnicities? English, Welsh, Scottish (Gallic), Irish, Ulster-Scots, Manx, Cornish, and Shelta (Travellers).
Of all these groups, the only ones who (occasionally) use that salute are the few remaining Irish/Gaelic speakers of Ireland – “Barr na maidine duit” means “Top of the morning to you”.
Irish immigrants to the US in the 19th Century took the expression with them and may have used it in translated form in English.
Other than that, in the English form, it only lives on in bad Hollywood Oirish productions by people who haven’t a clue about modern Ireland. Not a soul ever utters it here in Ireland or the UK.
I’m from the south of the U.S., and we don’t say howdy alot. In fact, we make fun of it, too. When we went to California we talked in a texan accent while walking around the store. It was so funny!
It really grabbed my attention in a different article, great job! What about “Hey!” and “Hiya!” creator of article? Those should be mentioned too.
wat about ello it could be a meaming for hello
ello ello ello
Wow i thought it meant something different
You guys have no life!
Thanks for this amazing article!
How about where ‘Howdy do?’ came from? Maybe from a tv show in the U.S.A. back in the 50’s or 60’s? I think ‘Yello’ came from back east in the U.S.A., but not sure.
I think the greeting ‘Yo’ came from black slangs in the U.S.A., same as ‘Wassup!?’
I was always under the impression that the telephone exchange was first envisioned by Tivadar Puskas, a Hungarian. “Hello” comes from Hungarian “hallom” which means “I hear you” and “hello” which means “listen” and was used in 1877 when he helped Edision build the first telephone exchange.
Interesting how many people are correcting this article: “it’s actually this…” but do not support their positions with data. Or if they use data pointing to the first use of the word they pick a source that is later. For instance, one comment says the word “hi” comes from a different source than what is mentioned in the article, and uses as their data a first usage date _after_ the first usage date mentioned in the article to support their contention for the source for the world “hi.” Seems to me the earlier source (the one in the article) trumps the latter (the one mentioned in one of the comments) in this instance?
An article by Heinz Insu Fenkl titled “Heaven and Hello” has a good analysis of many of the possible origins for the word “hello” and for “hi”: Mr. Fenkl is a creative writing professor, so knows a thing or two about words.
Its awesome. HOLA is often used in Spanish though.
hello is a word that can be used in the telephone to see if you have had contacted the other person at the other side of line one can not say hello to a person that did not know.when one picks, when calling the caller have to identified himself not whith a hello but with a godmorning or afternoon and this is ones name but a dry hello people think it is uncivilised
Hello! That is so cool, i would have never geust that!
Well… it’s kind of intersting, sort of educational, but pretty much lame. I myself am indifferent, but I’m going to put my opinion out there anyway:
Words only mean what YOU think or want them to mean, and how others perceive them, yeah? It’s like the word ‘gay’: happy or homo(etc)sexual? And ‘bitch’: breeding female dog or derogatory female insult? Now, just to be clear, I’m NOT being accusitory, insulting, ignorant, belittling, sexist, argumentative, abrasive, careless, intolerant, predjudiced, mysogynistic, misandristic, discriminatory, closed-minded, or anything related to these words(and common meanings/implications, etc)stated above, just so there aren’t any misunderstandings. Again, I am only stating my opinion.
There are many ways of interpretating words, especially new and old words that already have a reputation for being known to have other definitions,etc. See? Hey, come to think of it, these types of conversations are rather intersting themselves. Who wants to chat?
oops, i apologize for my spelling errors.
Hello?! This is dangerous…how?
Come to New Zealand and you will be greeted with “G-day” or if replying to a greeting by “yer, G-day” (G as in get)
AHOY!!! Now, that sounds like another nice way to greet over the phone!
I actually do remember about how ‘Hello’ came about after watching the movie ‘Alexander Graham Bell’ starring Don Ameche and Loretta Young, made in 1939. If you can get your hand on this, it’s a great film to watch.
Thank you for all the incredible information that’s give out daily. I too have been educated on so much.
Just a little comment on ‘Jordan’s’ entry – heck Jordan, I think you were a little excessive with your comment, don’t you? Talk about being over the top! No offence!!
Hello comes from Helios which means sun in greek and it’s the way to greet people in multiple languages
Is there any possible connection between the words hell and hello? So strangely similar…
[...] good-bye, the history of hello involves hunting dogs and a touch of danger. Learn the whole story, [...]
I like the greeting from down under – G’day! It’s very cheery.
Since I’ve not had the opportunity to visit there yet, does anyone know if they change that greeting in the evening/night time?
I use “hallo” and “howdo.”
I simply wanted to thank you so much yet again. I am not sure the things I would have tried in the absence of the information contributed by you about such a subject. This was an absolute frightful dilemma for me personally, nevertheless coming across a new professional mode you processed it forced me to cry over delight. Now i’m thankful for your work as well as pray you comprehend what an amazing job you are always doing training people by way of your web blog. Probably you have never encountered any of us.
I have been told that hello had a different origin. Can’t remember exactly, but I think it had some thing to do with the churches “Peace be with you”.
Hi could have come from the Scandinavians. “Hei” is pronounced and means “hi.”
let’s not forget the new hello … “hey” …
IT’S REALLY A GREAT ARTICLE.KEEP ON TEACHING US ALL WITH SUBJECTS LIKE THIS…
What went wrong!
Why suddenly interested in swearing, at the end?
Things are okay w/ you, hello!
What? Hello, hallo, holla, is not related to the Spanish ‘hola’?
“Hi hi” is how you laugh using Morse code. It’s the pre-internet way of saying “LOL.” Amateur radio users will sometimes say “hi hi” as a way of laughing using phone (voice or speech) communication as well, but it’s more common and natural to just give a good chuckle.
Your own report offers established helpful to me.
It’s extremely educational and you’re naturally extremely knowledgeable in this field. You have got opened up our eyes to varying thoughts about this particular subject matter along with intriquing, notable and reliable content.