Ooh Rah is a battle cry common in the United States Marine Corps since the mid-20th century. It is comparable to hooah in the US Army and hooyah in the US Navy and US Coast Guard. It is most commonly used to respond to a verbal greeting or as an expression of enthusiasm.
There are several potential sources from which the word "Ooh Rah" originated.
- The term may have come from Middle High German of 1580-90 "hurren" meaning "to move fast", which was formed into "hurra" and from which the English "hurry" comes.
- The term may have come from warriors of Ancient Hun or of Mongolian Empire "hurray" meaning "to move attack" or “appeal for goodness”, which was formed into "(h)urra" in Russian with same meaning, and from which the Mongolia "Uria" (callings or slogans) comes from. “Hurray and Uria” words are used today in Mongolia from the ancient soldiers.
- The term may be a variation of 18th century sailors exlamation "huzzah", traditionally said during salutes.
- In World War II injured US Marines were treated in northern Australia. The term 'Ooh Rah' is said to be local slang for 'farewell' or 'until then', although it is likely to be a mishearing of the more common 'ooroo'.
- The 1st Amphibious Reconnaissance Company, FMFPAC can be credited with the introduction of "Ooh-rah!" into the Marine Corps in 1953, shortly after the Korean War. Recon Marines served aboard the USS Perch (ASSP-313), a WWII-era diesel submarine retrofitted to carry Navy Underwater Demolition Team and Recon Marines. Whenever the boat was to dive, the 1MC (PA system) would announce "DIVE! DIVE!", followed by the sound of the diving klaxon: "AHUGA!" In 1953 or 1954, while on a conditioning run, former Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps John R. Massaro, while serving as company Gunnery Sergeant of 1st Amphibious Reconnaissance Battalion, simulated the "Dive" horn sound "AHUGA!" as part of the cadence. Legend has it, he took it with him when he went to serve as an instructor at the Drill Instructor school at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego. He there passed it on to the Drill Instructor students and they, in turn, passed it on to their recruits where it eventually and naturally became a part of the Recon cadence, and thereafter infiltrated Recon Marine lexicon. Over time, "AHUGA!" morphed into the shorter, simpler "Ooh Rah!" Today, the official Marine Corps Training Reference Manual on the history of Marine Recon is titled "AHUGA!"
- The term may have been derived from the Ottoman Turkish phrase "vur ha" translated as "strike" or the Mongolian word "urakh" meaning "forward." It was used as a battle cry of the Ottoman Empire army and adapted as a Russian battle cry "ura".
- Jack Weatherford asserts that it comes from the Mongolian Hurree, used by Mongol armies and spread throughout the world during the Mongol Empire of the 13th century, but he does not appear to present any supporting evidence. Weatherford says that in Mongolian Hurree is a sacred praise much like amen or hallelujah.
- According to Jean Paul Roux the word "Hurrah" comes from Old Turkic, in use until medieval times. In his book, History of Turks he states:
...For example, while attacking to their enemies, they (Turks) used to shout "Ur Ah!" which means "Come on, hit!" (In modern Turkish 'Vur Hadi!') Then this exclamation turned into "Hurrah!" in [the] West... The difference represents diachronic change in the phonology and verbal usage in Turkish. The verb for "to hit" or "to strike" was urmak, which became vurmak in Modern Turkish. Moreover, a former subjunctive imperative verbal ending of e/a is not productive in Modern Turkish. Therefore, "ura," meaning "may it hit," which would have changed phonetically to "vura" in Modern Turkish, is expressed with "vursun."
Owing to its relatively recent adoption by British and American military culture, it is less common for U.S. Marines who served in the Vietnam War or earlier to be familiar with "Ooh Rah!", but most post-Vietnam War U.S. Marines and Vietnam War U.S. Marines who continued to serve after the war will have learned it throughout their careers.
A couple of shortened versions of "Ooh Rah!" can come out as a short, sharp, monosyllabic guttural "Er!" or "Rah!"
- "Ooh Rah" is also used by United States Navy Hospital Corpsman, Master-At-Arms, and Seabees because of their close association with the Marine Corps.
- "Urra" or "Hura", often mistaken for "Ooh Rah", is the battle cry of the Russian Armed Forces, as well the Soviet Armed Forces and Red Army that preceded it. Its usage dates back to the Medieval era, derived from the Mongolian phrase hurray, meaning "to move" or "to attack". Mostly used during World War II, it is still used during military parades and Victory Day celebrations by all branches of the Russian military. It was and is also used as a patriotic phrase denoting respect to the military as well as the country itself.
- "From one era to another...". Force Recon Association. Retrieved 2009-02-13.
- "A Little Marine Corps History". National Headquarters. Marine Corps League. Retrieved 2009-02-13.
- Gaines, R.W. "Dick". "OOHRAH, and other things that go bump in the night...". Gunny G's GLOBE and ANCHOR. Retrieved 2009-02-13.