AskDefine | Define hello

Dictionary Definition

hello n : an expression of greeting; "every morning they exchanged polite hellos" [syn: hullo, hi, howdy, how-do-you-do]

User Contributed Dictionary



Hello (first attested in 1846) < hallo (attested 1840) < holla, hollo (attested 1588). This variant of hallo is often credited to Thomas Edison as a coinage for telephone use, but its appearance in print predates the invention of the telephone by several decades.
Possible from the & verb halôn, holôn "to bring something, to gather", akin to hale or hail.


  • a UK /həˈləʊ̯/, /hɛˈləʊ̯/, /h@"l@U/
  • a US , /hɛˈloʊ̯/|/həˈloʊ̯/, /hE"loU/ or /h@"loU/
  • Rhymes with: -əʊ


  1. A greeting (salutation) said when meeting someone or acknowledging someone’s arrival or presence.
    Hello, everyone.
  2. A greeting used when answering the telephone.
    Hello? How may I help you?
  3. A call for response if it is not clear if anyone is present or listening, or if a telephone conversation may have been disconnected.
    Hello? Is anyone there?
  4. Used sarcastically to imply that the person addressed or referred to has done something the speaker or writer considers to be foolish.
    You just tried to start your car with your cell phone. Hello?
  5. An expression of puzzlement or discovery.
    Hello? What’s going on here?

Usage notes

  • The greeting hello is among the most generic and neutral in use. It may be heard in nearly all social situations and in nearly all walks of life, and is unlikely to cause offense.
  • In some languages the expression for hello is not a mere greeting but also includes a notion of well-wishing. For example, the Urdu greeting (āssālam ‘alaykum) means May peace be upon you.






when answering the telephone
is anyone there?
sarcastic: that was foolish
expression of puzzlement
To be checked

Extensive Definition

Hello is a salutation or greeting in the English language and is synonymous with other greetings such as Hi or Hey. Hello was recorded in dictionaries in 1883.

First use

Many stories date the first use of hello (with that spelling) to around the time of the invention of the telephone in 1876. It was, however, used in print in Roughing It by Mark Twain in 1872 (written between 1870 and 1871), so its first use must have predated the telephone:
A miner came out and said: 'Hello!'
Earlier uses can be found back to 1849 and 1846:
We meet the boys here, and it is "Hello, George," or "Hello, Jim." We slap the judge of the Supreme Court on the back with a "Hello, Joe, how are you?"Charles Edwards Lester
It was listed in dictionaries by 1883.
The word was extensively used in literature by the 1860s. Two early uses of hello can be found as far back as 1826.
Examples: On this occasion she switched it on to a patient who was awake and who merely said 'Hello Sister, what's the matter with you...'Report on the trade in foreign corn, and on the agriculture of the north of Europe. by William Jacob, 1826. page 213
Then hello boys! Hello boys! Shout and huzz....The Every-day Book: Or Everlasting Calendar of Popular Amusements, Sports, Pastime, Ceremonies,...By William Hone, 1826 Page 1370


There are many different theories to the origins of the word. It might be a contraction of archaic English "whole be thou". Another source has been suggested to be the phrase "Hail, Thou", as used in some translations of the Bible (see Luke 1:28 and Matthew 27:14 for examples).


The word hello has also been credited to Thomas Edison, specifically as a way to greet someone when answering the telephone; according to one source, he expressed his surprise with a misheard Hullo. Alexander Graham Bell initially used Ahoy-hoy (as used on ships) as a telephone greeting. However, in 1877, Edison wrote to T.B.A. David, the president of the Central District and Printing Telegraph Company of Pittsburg:
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.
By 1889, central telephone exchange operators were known as 'hello-girls' due to the association between the greeting and the telephone. The definition of hollo is to shout or an exclamation originally shouted in a hunt when the quarry was spotted: Hallo is also used by many famous authors like Enid Blyton. Example:"Hallo!", chorused the 600 children.
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. Hǽlan is likely a cognate of German Heil and other similar words of Germanic origin.

"Hello, World" Computer 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:


In 1997, Leonso Canales Jr. from Kingsville, Texas convinced Kleberg County commissioners to designate "heaven-o" as the county's official greeting, on the grounds that the greeting "hello" contains the word "hell", and that the proposed alternative sounds more "positive". "Hello", however, is not etymologically related to "hell".


hello in German: Hallo
hello in Spanish: Hola
hello in French: Bonjour
hello in Italian: Ciao
hello in Norwegian Nynorsk: Hallo
hello in Portuguese: Oi
hello in Russian: Алло
hello in Simple English: Hello
hello in Turkish: Günaydin
hello in Venetian: Ciao
hello in Chinese: Hello

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

accost, address, bob, bow, curtsy, embrace, greeting, hail, hand-clasp, handshake, how-do-you-do, hug, kiss, nod, salutation, salute, smile, smile of recognition, wave
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