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The phrase tally-ho is a largely British phrase, which originated from the activity of foxhunting, and other forms of hunting with hounds, shouted when a rider or follower sees the fox. Today the term has evolved to have other meanings, most of which relate to 'pointing out' or 'spotting' a 'target'. For example, it is sometimes used as slang in air traffic control to verify a radar contact has been visually confirmed.[1]


Tally-ho dates from around 1772, and is probably derived from the French taïaut, a cry used to excite hounds when hunting deer.[2] According to other sources, the phrase may have originated from the second half of the 13th century, from the concatenation of a two word war cry: taille haut; "taille" being the cutting edge of the sword and "haut" translating to high (or 'raised up'), thus the original meaning of this interjection is something close to "Swords up!".[3]

"Tally-ho" had its first recorded use in the Americas in an 1773 hunting journal. From there, its use spread as more British colonists arrived. However, the phrase fell out of favour following the conclusion of the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783).[citation needed]

Other uses[edit]

Air forces[edit]

This expression became commonly used during the Second World War by English-speaking fighter pilots to say that an enemy aircraft has been sighted. It is still used today for this purpose, and also applies to sighting ground targets, though it is generally shortened to "Tally."

Tally-ho is the squadron motto of 609 (West Riding) Squadron, a famous British World War II fighter squadron. 609 (WR) Sqn RAuxAF still exists today, having been reformed in 1998 at Royal Air Force Station Leeming in North Yorkshire, England, UK.[4]

The phrase is also the motto of the US Air Forces 604th ASOS (Air Support Operations Squadron) Headquartered in Uijong-bu South Korea.

Air traffic control[edit]

This phrase has since been used by civilian pilots in response to traffic advisories provided by air traffic controllers (ATC). The pilot's response "Tally" or "Tally-ho" tells air traffic controllers that the pilot has seen the air traffic in question. For example:

ATC: Aircraft Call Sign / ID, "Airport Name, Tower, traffic at two o'clock, seven miles, a Boeing 737, west-bound, at 4000 feet."
Pilot: Aircraft Call Sign / ID, Tally-ho."

This phrase is not in the official FAA Pilot-Controller Glossary. The proper response to a traffic call issued by ATC is "traffic in sight" or "negative contact" which means previously issued traffic is not in sight.[5]


A four-in-hand coach, named the Tally-ho, was a coach that once plied between London and Birmingham.[2]

Also, the brand name of a large sightseeing carriage used by the Crescent Stables and Livery in Eureka Springs, Arkansas in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.


Tally-Ho is a brand of self-rolled cigarette papers available in Australia.

Tally-Ho is also a brand of poker-sized playing cards manufactured by the US Playing Card Company.


Tally-ho is also a term NASA astronauts use in audio transmissions to signify sightings of other spacecraft, space stations, and unidentified objects.[6]

Square dancing[edit]

Tally-ho is also a square dance call in Modern Western square dance at the C1 (Challenge 1) level.

Entertainment industry[edit]


Pub rock is usually traced back to the Tally Ho, a former jazz pub in Kentish Town, London where Eggs over Easy started playing in May 1971, and were soon joined by Bees Make Honey, Brinsley Schwarz, Max Merritt and the Meteors, Ducks Deluxe and others.[7]

  • Tally Ho is the title of the 1981 hit single by New Zealand lo-fi rock band The Clean.
  • Tally Ho (タリホー Tari Hō) is also the title of the hit single by Japanese rock band The Cro-Magnons (ザ・クロマニヨンズ Za Kuromaniyonzu) from their self-titled debut album.
  • Wagon Christ's 1998 album is titled Tally Ho!.
  • Tally Ho is the refrain of a very popular Hindi song Baar Baar Dekho from the film China Town (1962).
  • Tally Ho is the pre-refrain of the song "Death or Glory" by Running Wild.
  • "Tally Ho !" is the title of a comic song recorded by comedian Jerry Colonna on Vocalion 78 on May 12, 1939 (Voc 4872)[8]
  • "Tally Ho" was a popular unsigned pop-punk band from the Philadelphia suburbs. The band formed in 1998 and broke up in 2002. They shared the stage with such acts as Saves The Day, The Starting Line, Brand New, Little League (Kill Verona), Days Away, The Stryder and Stopwatch.
  • "Tally Ho" is the manager for International touring Rock Band "Phamous Phaces"

Films and television[edit]

The American film director Sam Raimi had heroes yell "Tally-ho!" before jumping in two films: Army of Darkness and Spider-Man.

In The Great Escape, "tally-ho" is the code word which Hendley (the Scrounger) used to warn the other escapees travelling in the same train as him, that the police and the Gestapo are also onboard and checking passengers' identity papers.

In the NCIS 'Blowback' episode, Ducky (David McCallum) murmurs the phrase "Tally ho!" as he prepares to go undercover as an English arms dealer. David McCallum once played a British prisoner of war in The Great Escape (1963) who was warned during his escape to keep his cover when James Garner's character whispered "Tally ho!" to him.

In the 1967 version of Casino Royal with Joanna Pettet as Mata Bond her character calls "Tally-ho" to respond to the taxi driver while escaping from Berlin.

On the classic TV show The Prisoner the people in The Village read a newspaper called Tally Ho, suggesting that this is not a peaceful retirement community but instead more of a fox hunt. The phrase was extensively used by Hugh Laurie in A Bit of Fry and Laurie and Blackadder Goes Forth British television series in the 80s.

In the sixteenth series episode of The Simpsons, "Midnight Rx", Montgomery Burns yells tally-ho as he's about to jump out of an airplane.

In the 4th-season episode of Star Trek: Voyager - "The Killing Game, Part II" - The Doctor responds to Klingons in a simulation with the "Tally ho" phrase after a Klingon and Neelix shout Qapla'.

In the Star Trek: The Original Series season 1, episode 17 "The Squire of Gothos", the phrase is used by Trelane upon first contacting the Enterprise crew.

In episode one, season five of The Larry Sanders Show - "Everybody Loves Larry" - Hank Kingsley yells "Tally ho, fuckface!" during a telephone conversation with a car mechanic.

In episode 16 of Green Lantern: The Animated Series, the word "Tally-ho" is used including other British stereotypes.

In the series 19 of Top Gear, the word "Tally-ho" is used by James May playing an aerial version of Laser Quest in his Aston Martin Vanquish.

In the sixth episode of season five of Regular Show, "A Skips in Time", Walks exclaims Tally-ho with excitement in a similar yet distinct manner to how Mordecai and Rigby say their signature "Yeah-yuh" phrase.

In the movie Matilda, Miss Trunchbull exclaims "Tally-ho!" while leaping over the second floor banister onto the first floor.

In the movie Top Gun, upon spotting enemy aircraft, Maverick (Tom Cruise) says, "Ho, I see 'em. Tally-ho. Right two o'clock. I'm in."[9]

In the movie We're No Angels (1955 film), Peter Ustinov while on the roof says "Tally ho" to alert his fellow escapees.

On the game show "Match Game 7x", host Gene Rayburn would often sign off at the end of the broadcast by saying "tally-ho".

In the Hindi movie China Town (1962 film), the song Baar Baar Dekho, sang by Md. Rafi, the phrase Tally-Ho was widely used. It became a famous song because of its peppy tune and the Tally-ho phrase.

The PBS Kids TV series Nature Cat, has the titular character using the catchphrase.

On A Monkey's Tale, the Lankoo King used the catchphrase during the tiger-hunt.

Cinema / Film theatre[edit]

Located in the heart of central Leesburg, Virginia in the USA, the Tally Ho Theatre is a historic twin theatre operating under the management of Market Street Productions. While the venue showcases first-run feature films, it also plays host to film themed nights, live comedy, magic and musical acts, as well as private events.

From their official website (as of June 2014):[10]

A landmark in historic downtown Leesburg, the Tally Ho Theatre was built in 1932 as a motion picture and performing arts venue. Operating continuously since its inception, the theatre was purchased by its second owner in 1999. With the prior addition of La Lou Bistro, the Tally Ho has recently been renovated and opened to host live music, theater, and other events.

Come experience live national artists and fine indoor dining at the Tally Ho.

In the film 1996 film Matilda, the antagonist, the "Trunchbull", uses the phrase before she leaps from the second story of her house to the first story during her hunt for Matilda.


In D.J. MacHale's book series The Pendragon Adventure, the aquatic character Vo Spader shouts "Hobey-ho!" many times to the point where it is his motto. It was probably derived from "tally-ho," as it sees similar usage as a sort of rallying cry. "Sin in the Second City", by Karen Abbott. recounts the day in 1900 that two Chicago madams, the Everleigh sisters, hired a four-horse "tallyho" and made a dramatic procession to the Washington Park Derby.

On C.S. Lewis's The Magician's Nephew, the Narnian creatures cried out 'tally-ho' among many other words as they chased Uncle Andrew.

Video games[edit]

In the Final Fantasy series, Lali-ho or Rally-ho, an altered form of the phrase, is used by Dwarves as their password.

In Sam & Max: Situation Comedy, Bosco shouts "Tally ho, foo!" in his poor attempt to disguise himself as a British gentleman.

In Pirates of the Caribbean Online, Tally-Ho is the name given to one of the Ship of the Line warships that pursue pirate ships that have had a bounty placed upon them by the Royal Navy.

In the game Company of Heroes when selecting the Allied Jeep, the driver shouts: "Tally-ho, we're good to go."

In the strategy game Empires: Dawn of the Modern World, the unit "Spitfire" (fighter plane, British player) says "Tally-Ho" when it is issued a command.

Tally-ho is the recurring battlecry of the members of the PSS in Black Rock Shooter: The Game. At the behest of the protagonist, it also becomes the recurring name for their operations.

In the game Tropico 4, Lord Chuffney (the British diplomat) consistently greets you as: "Tally-ho, old boy!"

In the MOBA game Dawngate, the phrase "Tally-ho" is used by the Shaper (Playable Character) King of Masks.

In the game Borderlands 2, the character "Sir Hammerlock" uses it as a catchphrase in several dialogues, most notably in the expansion "Sir Hammerlocks big game hunt".

In Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II – Retribution, the Imperial Guard Sentinel unit uses it as a battlecry when engaging enemy commanders of the same faction.

In Fallout 4, Codsworth, the player's robot, uses it when he sees and engages an enemy.

In Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War, Mission "Shorebirds": "Captain Jack Bartlett" say "Tally-ho" on the targets.

In Battlefield 1942, after British soldiers capture an outpost, radio chatter sometimes shouts "Tally-ho!"

In Poptropica, the phrase "Tally-ho" is used by a big-game trophy hunter named Myron Van Buren in episodes four and five, when he hunts the player in Survival Island. There is also a bust of him that plays "Tally-ho" on a voice recording, which the player has to use in order to open a door.

In Spyro: A Hero's Tail, Sergeant James Byrd says 'tally-ho' before he flies.

Other names[edit]

Bar in Hoboken, NJ

The West Midlands Police Learning and development Centre, Tally Ho!, Edgbaston, Birmingham

HMS Tally-Ho was a British World War II submarine.[11]

It is the name of a pub in Worcestershire, as well as a pub in Bouldon, Shropshire, and there is a pub called 'The Tally-Ho' in Trumpington, Cambridgeshire.

The Tally-Ho is a Hotel and Sports Bar in Victoria BC.[12]

A pub in Finchampstead, Berkshire, is named the Tally Ho.

A pub in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania is also named the Tally Ho Tavern.[13]

It is also the name of a pub in North Finchley, London, and often North Finchley is referred colloquially as Tally Ho or in the case of local bus transport as Tally Ho Corner.

It is also the name of a fast food restaurant near McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario Canada

There is also a residential street named Tally-Ho Road in Arroyo Grande, California, and another, Tally Ho Road, in Lutherville-Timonium, Maryland.

It is one of the names given to Red Dog that was well known for his travels through Western Australia's Pilbara region.

It is also the name of a bus company in Devon, England. In 1923, Jim Clark, a farmer at The Mounts in Kingsbridge, Devon bought a coach and started running passenger transport services with the company name "Tally Ho, Sunshine Coach". His bus and coaching business grew over the years, using the "Tally Ho" name. In 1926, W. Wellington bought a lorry and started a goods haulage business, in Kingbridge, Devon. Later, he added a bus to his growing fleet and his bus and coaching business called "Kingsbridge Belle" grew along with the addition of furniture removal and cattle haulage. In 1960, Jim Wellington acquired the "Tally Ho" bus and coach business from Jim Clark and continued it, using the same name. Today, Tally Ho in Kingsbridge operate from there to Dartmouth, Modbury, Salcombe, Totnes and from Ivybridge they operate to Plymouth and Bigbury.

A bicycle tour company in London is called "Tally Ho! Cycle Tours".

The Albert Strange designed yacht Tally Ho won the Fastnet race in 1927.


  1. ^ "Oxford Dictionary - Tally-ho". Oxford Dictionary. Referenced May 19, 2008.
  2. ^ a b "Merriam-Webster Dictionary - Tallyho". Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Referenced May 19, 2008.
  3. ^ "Taïaut", Centre National de Ressources Textuelles et Lexicales (in French)
  4. ^ Luke, John. "609 (West Riding) Squadron Royal Auxiliary Air Force". Military Airshows in the UK. Referenced May 19, 2008.
  5. ^ Federal Aviation Administration: Pilot/Controller Glossary (P/CG), T (Traffic)
  6. ^ Harwood, William (2002-06-07). "Endeavour arrives at the International Space Station". Spaceflight Now. Retrieved 2008-11-17. 
  7. ^ Birch, Will (2003). No Sleep Till Canvey Island – The Great Pub Rock Revolution (1st ed.). London: Virgin Books Ltd. pp. 120–129. ISBN 0-7535-0740-4. 
  8. ^ Brian Rust: The Complete Entertainment Discography 1897-1942 2nd Ed
  9. ^ "Sound clips from Top Gun (1986)". Movie-Sounds.org. Retrieved 25 September 2014. 
  10. ^ tallyholeesburg.com
  11. ^ "HMS Tally-Ho (P 317)". Uboat.net. Referenced May 19, 2008.
  12. ^ "Tally Ho Hotel". tallyhovictoria.com. Retrieved 7 April 2015. 
  13. ^ "Tally Ho Tavern". yelp.com. 30 March 2015. Retrieved 7 April 2015.