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For other uses, see Hello (disambiguation).

Hello is a salutation or greeting in the English language. It is first attested in writing from 1833.

First use

Hello, with that spelling, was used in publications as early as 1833. These include an 1833 American book called The Sketches and Eccentricities of Col. David Crockett, of West Tennessee,[1] which was reprinted that same year in The London Literary Gazette.[2]

The word was extensively used in literature by the 1860s.[3]


According to the Oxford English Dictionary, hello is an alteration of hallo, hollo,[4] which came from Old High German "halâ, holâ, emphatic imperative of halôn, holôn to fetch, used especially in hailing a ferryman."[5] It also connects the development of hello to the influence of an earlier form, holla, whose origin is in the French holà (roughly, 'whoa there!', from French 'there').[6] As in addition to hello, halloo,[7] hallo, hollo, hullo and (rarely) hillo also exist as variants or related words, the word can be spelt using any of all five vowels.[citation needed]


The use of hello as a telephone greeting has been credited to Thomas Edison; according to one source, he expressed his surprise with a misheard Hullo.[8] Alexander Graham Bell initially used Ahoy (as used on ships) as a telephone greeting.[9][10] However, in 1877, Edison wrote to T.B.A. David, the president of the Central District and Printing Telegraph Company of Pittsburgh:

Friend David, I do not think we shall need a call bell as Hello! can be heard 10 to 20 feet away.

What you think? Edison - P.S. first cost of sender & receiver to manufacture is only $7.00.[11]

By 1889, central telephone exchange operators were known as 'hello-girls' due to the association between the greeting and the telephone.[10]


Hello may be derived from hullo, which the American Merriam-Webster dictionary describes as a "chiefly British variant of hello,"[12] and which was originally used as an exclamation to call attention, an expression of surprise, or a greeting. Hullo is found in publications as early as 1803.[13] The word hullo is still in use, with the meaning hello.[14][15][16][17][18]

Hallo and hollo

"Hallo" redirects here. For other uses, see Hallo (disambiguation).

Hello is alternatively thought to come from the word hallo (1840) via hollo (also holla, holloa, halloo, halloa).[12] The definition of hollo is to shout or an exclamation originally shouted in a hunt when the quarry was spotted:[12]

If I fly, Marcius,/Halloo me like a hare.

Fowler's has it that "hallo" is first recorded "as a shout to call attention" in 1864.[19] It is used by Samuel Taylor Coleridge's famous poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner written in 1798:

And the good south wind still blew behind,
But no sweet bird did follow,
Nor any day for food or play
Came to the mariners' hollo!

Hallo is also German, Danish, Norwegian, Dutch and Afrikaans for Hello. It is used in the Dutch language as early as 1797 in a letter from Willem Bilderdijk to his sister in law as a remark of astonishment.[20]

Webster's dictionary from 1913 traces the etymology of holloa to the Old English halow and suggests: "Perhaps from ah + lo; compare Anglo Saxon ealā."

According to the American Heritage Dictionary, hallo is a modification of the obsolete holla (stop!), perhaps from Old French hola (ho, ho! + la, there, from Latin illac, that way).[21]

The Old English verb, hǽlan (1. wv/t1b 1 to heal, cure, save; greet, salute; gehǽl! Hosanna!), may be the ultimate origin of the word.[22] Hǽlan is likely a cognate of German Heil (meaning complete for things and healthy for beings) and other similar words of Germanic origin. Bill Bryson asserts in his book Mother Tongue that "hello" comes from Old English hál béo þu ("Hale be thou", or "whole be thou", meaning a wish for good health) (see also "goodbye" which is a contraction of "God be with you".

"Hello, World" computer program

Main article: Hello world program

Students learning a new computer programming language will often begin by writing a "Hello, world!" program, which outputs that greeting to a display screen or printer. The widespread use of this tradition arose from an introductory chapter of the book The C Programming Language by Kernighan & Ritchie, which reused the following example taken from earlier memos by Brian Kernighan at Bell Labs:

 int main() 
        printf("hello, world");

The Apple DOS HELLO program

A diskette formatted to boot Apple DOS 3.x on the Apple II series of computers will look for a BASIC program to run automatically after the operating system has booted. By default, the name of the program is HELLO, and is specified as a parameter of the INIT command used to format a floppy disk. For the HELLO program to work, it has to be created in the same language (Integer BASIC or Applesoft BASIC) that is present in the language ROM of the system the disk is being booted on.

Perception of "Hello" in other nations

In some other nations, especially the ones that had little contact with foreigners at the time, Westerners were often viewed as people who constantly said "hello" and little else. Chinese novelist Jung Chang describes this view as follows:

In my mind... foreigners said 'hello' all the time, with an odd intonation.... When boys played 'guerrilla warfare,' which was their version of cowboys and Indians, the enemy side would have thorns glued onto their noses and say 'hello' all the time.

— Chang, Jung[23]

See also


  1. ^ (Anonymous). The Sketches and Eccentricities of Col. David Crockett, of West Tennessee. New York: J. & J. Harper, 1833. p. 144.
  2. ^ "The Sketches and Eccentricities of Col. David Crockett, of West Tennessee." The London Literary Gazette; and Journal of Belles Lettres, Arts, Sciences, &c. No. 883: December 21, 1833. p. 803.
  3. ^ [1] Origin of the word.
  4. ^ "Hello." Oxford English Dictionary Online. Second Edition, 1989. Oxford University Press. Accessed 09 Sep 2008.
  5. ^ "Hallo." OED Online. Second Edition, 1989. Oxford University Press. Accessed 09 Sep 2008.
  6. ^ "holla, int. and n.". OED Online. Retrieved October 4, 2008.
  7. ^ Butler, Mann, A History of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, Wilcox, Dickerman & Co., 1834, p. 106.
  8. ^ Allen Koenigsberg. "The First "Hello!": Thomas Edison, the Phonograph and the Telephone – Part 2". Antique Phonograph Magazine, Vol.VIII No.6. Retrieved 2006-09-13. 
  9. ^ Allen Koenigsberg (1999). "All Things Considered". National Public Radio. Retrieved 2006-09-13. 
  10. ^ a b "Online Etymology Dictionary". Retrieved 28 September 2010. 
  11. ^ Allen Koenigsberg. "The First "Hello!": Thomas Edison, the Phonograph and the Telephone – Part 2". Retrieved 1 August 2012. 
  12. ^ a b c "hullo - Definition from the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary". 2007-04-25. Retrieved 2009-09-26.  Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "MW" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
  13. ^ The Sporting Magazine. London (1803). Volume 23, p. 12.
  14. ^ phpBB + phpBB Search Engine Indexer. "Hullo From Orkney". Retrieved 2009-09-26. 
  15. ^ Piers Beckley (2008-04-23). "Writersroom Blog: Hullo again. Did you miss me?". BBC. Retrieved 2009-09-26. 
  16. ^ Barton, Laura (2005-02-23). "Paris for a day | Technology". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2009-09-26. 
  17. ^ "Ashes: England v Australia - day one as it happened | Andy Bull and Rob Smyth | Sport |". London: Guardian. 2009-07-16. Retrieved 2009-09-26. 
  18. ^ "BBC SPORT | Football | Europe | Semi-final clash excites fans". BBC News. 2005-04-14. Retrieved 2009-09-26. 
  19. ^ The New Fowler's, revised third edition by R. W. Burchfield, Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-860263-4, p. 356.
  20. ^ Bilderdijk, Willem Liefde en ballingschap. Brieven 1795-1797 (ed. Marita Mathijsen). Uitgeverij De Arbeiderspers, Amsterdam/Antwerp 1997
  21. ^ "Hello". The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition. 2000. Retrieved 2006-09-01. 
  22. ^ OEME Dictionaries
  23. ^ Chang, Jung (1991). Wild Swans. New York: Simon & Schuster. p. 247. 

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