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Origin Story: Why Do We Say Hello When Answering the Phone?

Team StoryWeavers|May 31, 2022, 08:19 IST| 149

What word is more ever-present in the English language as “hello?” Sure, ‘mama’ or ‘dada’ might often be an infant’s first word. But, ‘hello’ is learned quickly thereafter. You can hardly go for a stroll without uttering the word at least once. Your phone rings and it’s an unknown number. How do you answer? Simple. You tap the ‘answer’ button, and say “Hello.” 

There’s a reason why “hello” is the first word you learn when studying a new language: With it, you can introduce yourself, get someone’s attention, and signal that you’re friendly.  

Despite the word’s popularity, though, you probably don’t know where “hello” actually comes from. Has it always been a greeting? Was another word used in its place before? And why do we say ‘Hello’ when answering the phone?

Well, the last time we told you the fascinating story behind the origin of “OK”

Today we are back with another origin story for those of you who have been curious about the history of “Hello”!

“Hello” History!

Hello Adele GIF

Credit: Giphy

Let’s talk a little etymology – you know, the study of words and how their meanings have changed throughout history.

This might come as a bit of a surprise, but the word “hello” (or at least using it as a greeting) is about as new as the invention of the telephone itself. In addition, the word “hello” was never intended to mean the “hi” we use it for today at all. 

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the first documented use of “hello” was in 1827, less than 200 years ago. 

Back then it was used in two ways and neither of them was a friendly greeting. The first use was as an expression of surprise, as in the phrase, “Hello, what do we have here?!” The second was to get sudden attention, as in “Hello, what do you think you’re doing?!” This would be comparable to today’s “hey you!”.

What Was The Greeting People Used Prior To Hello?

George Clooney Brain Fart GIF

If hello’s popular use only came about as recently as the telephone, what could one be expected to say as a greeting before then?

During the 17th Century in America, pilgrims would typically say “Good morrow,” “How now?” “How do you fare” or “What cheer?” in place of “Hi, how are you?” But that’s quite a disconnect from hello.

The word closest in similarity to hello that was used by people all the way from the Middle Ages through Shakespeare’s time was “hail.” As in, ‘Hail, Caesar!’ This is traced to the Old Norse word, heill, which comes from the word’s meaning “health.”

Health or holiness-either seems like something quite friendly to wish upon someone you are greeting, right?

But the big question remains. But why do we say hello when answering the phone?

Common Myths Around Why We Say ‘Hello’ On Phone

Homer Simpson Museum GIF

Credit: Giphy

First, let’s rid ourselves of myths we may have picked up over the internet. Rumor has it that the standard greeting came about because it was the name of Alexander Graham Bell’s girlfriend at the time of patenting the invention. The story goes that she later married the inventor. Would this mean that his wife’s proper name was Hello Bell? Surely not!

Others suggest that it was a girlfriend that Alexander Graham Bell was honouring when choosing the go-to phrase for answering a call on the telephone. This girlfriend is said to have been named Margaret Hello. Supposedly, a declaration of love is why we say hello when answering the phone.

There is no merit whatsoever to this silly story, as interesting as it may sound. This rumour isn’t based on any historical facts. Someone just made it up!

What Was Said During The First Phone Call?

Dog Hello GIF

Credit: Giphy

If you’re wondering what was said as a greeting to the first person that Alexander Graham Bell called, you may be a bit disappointed. Because, in fact, there was no need for a greeting. There wasn’t a ring. The first call was rather brief:

“Mister Watson, come here – I want you.”

So Why Do We Say Hello When Answering The Phone?

Thinking What GIF by H.E.R.

Credit: Giphy

Hello began catching on as a greeting through the 19th century, but it wasn’t until the telephone was invented that its future was sealed. 

Though we credit Alexander Graham Bell as the inventor of the telephone (whether or not he was, is still up for debate), a different inventor is credited with coining the typical phone greeting. Who? Thomas Edison!

You see, the phone wasn’t intended to be a device that rang. It was expected to be a line of business communication between two parties that was left as an open line. If the caller wanted the person on the other end of the line to know they would like to speak, some sort of greeting would need to occur. Graham Bell had suggested an older maritime greeting: ‘Ahoy!’ In fact, he felt so strongly about “ahoy” that he used it for the rest of his life.

Episode 15 Hello GIF

We wonder how would it sound if we say ‘Ahoy’ while answering the calls now! Credit: Giphy

However, his rival, Thomas Edison thought the better word was “Hello” and he urged the people who used his phone to say “hello” when answering. 

When the first telephone book was printed in New Haven, Connecticut, USA in 1878, it included a “how to” section as well as tips on phone etiquette. It informed the readers that one should initiate a telephone conversation with “a firm and cheery ‘hulloa.’” By 1880 Edison’s preferred hello had won out.

The Future Of Hello

scary movie phone GIF

Will the legacy of using “hello” as the most-used greeting continue in (and perhaps after) the age of cellphones? In a generation whose most oft-used text greeting is the more casual “hey,” or the more fashion-forward “Whassup”, will “hello” be as lost to the archives as “ahoy”? Maybe not. 

For programmers beginning to learn computer languages, the first thing they use is a simple “Hello, world!” program. It is simply a display device being used to convey the forthright message, “Hello, world!” onto the computer screen. This has been a programming protocol since at least 1972. With the advent of wireless landlines, then cell phones, and then smartphones, many popular slang greetings have come and gone. “Hello” is a classic, if not universal, way in which to greet the world, and we hope it stays.

So the next time someone asks you about the origin of “hello,” you can explain to them that it goes all the way back to Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Edison (and that “ahoy” almost ended up being the de facto greeting). 

We hope you enjoyed learning something new today. Tell us which part of this Origin Story did you find most fascinating? What other origin stories would you like to read about? Tell us in the comments below.

Hello in different languages:

There are thousands of languages being spoken by people around the word and saying “Hello” is one of the most basic and important form of greeting someone in each of them. Here is how you say “Hello” in ten different languages. Who knows, it might come in handy with you are touring the world.

Hello in Spanish hola
Hello in French bonjour
Hello in German guten tag
Hello in Italian salve
Hello in Chinese nǐn hǎo
Hello in Portuguese olá
Hello in Arabic asalaam alaikum
Hello in Japanese konnichiwa
Hello in Korean anyoung haseyo
Hello in Russian Zdravstvuyte

Also read, about How did telephones go from wired to wireless

About the Author


Raza has been writing since 2008, be it fiction, poetry, or articles on science, politics, and history. He believes that words can change the world, and he uses them to inspire and empower people through his writing. When he is not working, he is watching nature documentaries or playing with his cats.

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Comments



Aahan Dora

November 23, 2021

thank you for the truth


Avyukth

November 20, 2021

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Nitish Kumar Yadav

November 17, 2021

Very nice


ChanamallaBhavana

November 10, 2021

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Riddhi Banik

October 31, 2021

AMAZING STORY. THANK YOU BYJUS GIVEING ME A BEST LEARNING


Swagat Mishra

October 28, 2021

Very very good


Ayan Misra

October 28, 2021

HELLO! Yeah, never thought about the topic but now that I think about it it’s quite interesting. And the explanation is stupendous.
Hats off!!!

~Ayan Misra


P.Siddharth Rao

October 27, 2021

Hello! to all my teachers.


Mayra Fatima

October 25, 2021

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Lokesh

October 16, 2021

Who created word love


Anishka Sharma

October 9, 2021

Please share the origin story of word “Thanks you” and “Welcome”


Samrudhi Doifode

October 9, 2021

Nice and really interesting


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October 8, 2021

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Fatima

October 4, 2021

Wow nice


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October 3, 2021

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Janhvi Hiwrale

October 3, 2021

“Hello” . Intresting.


Mehnaz Parveen

October 3, 2021

SUPERB !! can hardly wait for another one
THANKS TO BYJUS TEAM …. ??


Aashna

October 2, 2021

Really nice and explanative!! Found it very interesting!!
thank you.


Sanyam Agarwal

October 2, 2021

Ahoy
This blog was a nice one. Thanks to Byju’s.
Increment in general knowledge. ?


lokesh s pokar

October 1, 2021

hi i want a free class on byju;s


Sapana jaychand Gaikwad

October 1, 2021

oh my god hello


Sumer Sandilya

September 30, 2021

Hi hello history of hello I like it


Kuldeep Saini

September 30, 2021

Nice


Mahi Choudhary

September 29, 2021

Very Good


Brikesh Pathak

September 29, 2021

That’s good


Saksham Paliwal

September 29, 2021

It is a good hello hello
For hello hello is a very beautiful world


Arnav Zunjare

September 29, 2021

Hello anyone there?


Dhruv Hasaragundgi

September 29, 2021

ahoy!


Aditri Das

September 28, 2021

Very nice ?


Arya Agarwal

September 28, 2021

Soo good. can you make an article on “the origin of Thank you?”
Or “the origin of exams?”


Anvita Garg

September 28, 2021

Ahoy in pirates/oldentimes ,Hola in Spanish ,Bonjour in French ,Konnichiwa in Japanese ,Mihao in Chinese but saying HELLO is the best. Thank you BYJU’S for sharing this information


Anonymous

September 28, 2021

This was interesting to read!


Rushi Priya

September 27, 2021

HELLO !!!! I am Rushi Priya and this blog is so good?!!!


Radhika bawa

September 27, 2021

OMG! That was a nice history of ‘Hello’. my most favourite word was Good morrow how now?I am very happy to read this, Now i will tell this to my friends and also about the myths


Shashank Kumar

September 26, 2021

This is excellent


HIMADRI

September 26, 2021

IT IS AN AWESOME ARTICLE I HAVE FOUND EVER. HELLO THE ORGIN OF INTERACTION. HANDS OFF TO YOU SIR RAZA MEHDI…


Anugya Chaudhary

September 26, 2021

We sometimes used the word ‘hello’ to start a conversation. Or sometimes to ask ‘somebody is there?or not ?
{Hello}
This word is also used as one word for saying- Who is on the phone?


Uday

September 26, 2021

This is useful information and interesting


SAURYAM

September 26, 2021

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Nithila

September 26, 2021

Wow! This is very interesting. Actually even when we converse in another language on the phone, the first thing we say is hello


Mrunal Sandeep Gadhe

September 26, 2021

Very nice???
I didn’t know about the history of ‘HELLO’?
But byjus help me to understand the history…??


Tanvi Dagar

September 26, 2021

It was a awesome theory but I want to know why we always say bye or goodbye to someone on phone or when we met them for example in a park


Stuti Dixit

September 26, 2021

Hello is a new word, says dictionary. It was Thomas Edison who put hello into common use. Now people who use his phone say hello when answering. Alexander Graham Bell thought the better word was ahoy


Laxmi Prasanna

September 26, 2021

Because telephone was invented by Alexander Graham Bell to call his wife. Her wife’s name was Hello


Manpreet

September 26, 2021

Nice Story


Yuvti Ravindra Chaugule

September 26, 2021

Hello I am Yuvti.
The Origin Stories that Byju’s tell are wonderful.


NEHA chheda

September 26, 2021

Nice


Haniya bee

September 26, 2021

Hello i am Haniya bee


Haniya bee

September 26, 2021

ii call my brother i say Hello can i wait you here


Shree Gowri

September 26, 2021

Very nice


Ananya Trivedi

September 26, 2021

Hello! hello!
I really enjoyed it !
Next I want to know about the origin of “LOL”


Shreyanshi parida

September 26, 2021

What is the origin of bye but this wassss amazing ??


Aadrika Singh

September 26, 2021

Very Nice..??


Jennyfer josphia

September 26, 2021

It’s amazing I didn’t know and I am also a student of byjus and I like to support


Yash kumar

September 26, 2021

It is so good hello hello


Maanvi Bachra

September 26, 2021

Hello! ?
I would like to hear the origin story of the word ”Yes”…..Would Really Appreciate If You Answer This ??? Please


ARNAV SHARMA

September 25, 2021

Yeh this blog is awesome and cool and its to interesting thanq byjus to make my study interesting and Easy er


Maji

September 25, 2021

I like to say wassup or hey or hey dude


Kanika

September 25, 2021

Very good and exciting story.


P.isha sri

September 25, 2021

Hello everyone ☺️☺️…..think hello is now so popular and every one use her name at first meet ??????

Hello =god ?


Ayush Roy

September 25, 2021

Omg!!!!!!!!


Ayush Roy

September 25, 2021

Who did this excellent and very funny work


Navita Dinesh Kumar Jatav

September 25, 2021

This story is entertaining
Wow very nice amazing a big thanks to byjus learning app


Vansh

September 25, 2021

Hello


Nimish

September 25, 2021

Thanks to hello!! An important word of our life. Thanks hello…
Bye!


Sakshi Verma

September 25, 2021

It’s great. ?
I love this.?


Tarun.H.R

September 25, 2021

What is the story of hey!


Md umair

September 25, 2021

Hello is good for everyone. That that’s why I say hello .thank you for byju’s


Md umair

September 25, 2021

He/she is hearing our voice we get a reply. That’s way say Hello


Naman bhardwaj

September 25, 2021

Hello, I am curious to know the word television.


Akshatha

September 25, 2021

Very good question


Shreeja

September 25, 2021

Fully ??


Satyam Swapnil

September 25, 2021

Thank you Byju’s for this important information.


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September 25, 2021

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September 25, 2021

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Satvik

September 25, 2021

Interesting information..
Thank you BYJU’S


Qareen

September 25, 2021

Hello


Àñkít kûmàr Gúptà

September 25, 2021

Hello sir


Saanvi thakur

September 25, 2021

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Thank you BYJUS….


Saanvi thakur

September 25, 2021

AMAZING STORY BYJUS THANK YOU BYJUS GIVING ME A BEST LEARNING


Saanvi thakur

September 25, 2021

The most fascinating part was the use of the word Ahoy! .
It is generally used by sailors but I didn’t knew it was a greeting in older times.I like to read about the origin story of python language


Kaustubh kailas kayande

September 25, 2021

Hello, I’m Kauatubh, It’s great?


Satadru

September 25, 2021

I liked the atricle. I came to know about ‘hello’. It’s vere fascinating. I like those articles.
Thank you.


Parth dawane

September 25, 2021

REALLY ITS NICE
and the history of hello is very funny


R. Vedha

September 25, 2021

Answer: first when Alexander found the telephone he called to his wife. And the wife name is Hello so first he told hello so we also calling as hello


Palak Ujjainiya

September 25, 2021

Very nice story


Spoorthy

September 25, 2021

Ahoy! Captain


Bhautik S.M

September 25, 2021

HELLO MY NAME IS BHAUTIK!!!!!!!


J.Vaishnavi

September 25, 2021

When the telephone was invented , Alexander Graham Bell wanted people to use the word ahoy as a greeting


Rudra Yadav

September 25, 2021

In 1826 fist time hello been written


S.HEMANTH KUMAR JAIN

September 25, 2021

Good


Bhuvanya

September 25, 2021

I am feeling so happy


Gurleen

September 25, 2021

~#HELLO…..~

_*IT WAS AMAZING*_


L.Rishitha

September 25, 2021

Thank u byjus for clearing my doubts


ASWINKRISHNA. S

September 25, 2021

Byjus


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September 25, 2021

Very nice


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September 25, 2021

So cool????


K.sahithi

September 25, 2021

Wow?very nice amazing A thanks of byju’s app!!


PRATYUSH MAURYA

September 25, 2021

HELLO SIR ??


Nausheen Rahman

September 25, 2021

This was very interesting piece of information …… I LOVE IT A lot

Thank you so much
BYJUS….


Gungun

September 24, 2021

Amazing story thankyou byju’s. Giving my my best learning story.


Karen Sibi

September 24, 2021

? Hey,Byjus thx for this wonderful facts and stories ??Pls keep updating cool articles for kids


Shiva

September 24, 2021

Why we say good bye


Akshara Dilip More

September 24, 2021

These types of new and interesting stories I like to read. Thank you BYJU’S
Learning Aap for giving me this beautiful knowledge!!


Manjot kaur

September 24, 2021

Nice and interesting


Samiksha Shakya

September 24, 2021

The blog is so good.I also know about the origin of bye.


Uttkarsh tiwari

September 24, 2021

This blog was op! Literally,most of us don’t mind upon the origins of the words that we use in our everyday life but just use them instantaneously;as in the case above we all use use the word,’hello’ but don’t ever think of its origins well-well above was the whole story !!
Premium user of byjus


Sam Rajveer

September 24, 2021

Thank you Byjus for the information.
I want to know the origin of the word “jungle”


Samarth kanu

September 24, 2021

Hello Hello i am Samarth


Isha

September 24, 2021

This is new for me, I was also in same myths about Axelandra story. It’s quite funny and simple logic…..


Nisha Rathore

September 24, 2021

I love byjus


Kumar ANSH RAJ

September 24, 2021

It’s amazing


Sampurnna Dutta

September 24, 2021

Amazing & interesting


M.sashi

September 24, 2021

Because a Alexander Graham Bell’s girlfriend at the time of patenting the invention


Roshni Nishant Mone

September 24, 2021

Thank you,
Important information.


Ayush Mishra

September 24, 2021

Hello


Nice

September 24, 2021

Very nice, can you choose topic of any ancient and mythical animal . Please???.


Sagar Jagadeesh Bhat

September 24, 2021

Nice and interesting .


Bhushan Takzure

September 24, 2021

#Thanks Byju’s#


Bhushan Takzure

September 24, 2021

It was amazing , and HELLO!! ☺️


Vedhika

September 24, 2021

Love reading your article


Ojasvi

September 24, 2021

Because, When we meet someone we say in hindi that, Namashkar, In english we have to say that is Hello. So when we call someone we say very respectively that, Hello.


Krishna goyal

September 24, 2021

Wow!!!!


Anushree

September 24, 2021

This was very interesting piece of information.
Thank you BYJUS….


Yashaswini

September 24, 2021

It’s nice


Adarsh Tiwari

September 24, 2021

Hi


Bhautik S.M

September 24, 2021

How did OH MY GOD or OMG originate


Harshini

September 24, 2021

OMG!!!!!!!!!!!!! It is very funny and we are able to know where this word HELLO came from in a very funny way.
KEEP ADDING MANY MORE FOR KIDS AND
THANK YOU


shresth sahoo

September 24, 2021

Why are games so addictive


Angel Gupta

September 24, 2021

It’s a very funny history of “Hello”


Vedashri khobe

September 24, 2021

As you told in the force and pressure chapter that we are actually not in touch with things
If it is so why do we feel pain when our head crashes with the wall or when we clap hardly why does it pains


Anonymous

September 24, 2021

I loved reading your article…
Could you please give the next article origin of the word please?


Harshita

September 24, 2021

The most Interesting part was the conversation between the Alexander Graham Bell and his girlfriend talking
Ahoy


Prateek prabhakar

September 24, 2021

SIR WHAT IS THE MEANING OF BYJUS


GURASEES CHAHAL

September 24, 2021

AMAZING STORY BYJUS THANK YOU BYJUS GIVEING ME A BEST LEARNING


Hriddhi Mishra

September 24, 2021

The real meaning of hello is- hello is a salutation or greeting in the English language.It is first attested in writing from 1826


Nihal t manoj

September 24, 2021

What is the story of ok


Nice & Interesting.

September 24, 2021

Nice & Interesting.


Shrestha Halder

September 24, 2021

What is the History of origin of the word “Please”


Shrikant Girnare

September 24, 2021

We say hello to check if the other person is hearing our voice or not, if he/she is hearing our voice we get a reply,
That’s why we say Hello


Adhar kumar Gupta

September 24, 2021

Wow very nice amazing A big thanks to byju’s learning app !!


Shruti kaslikar

September 24, 2021

Why we say goodbye


Himika Bhakta

September 24, 2021

HELLO ! I am Himika and this blog is so cool!!!


Satya swarup biswal

September 24, 2021

Old high german


B.lasya reddy

September 24, 2021

Nice


Rishikesh

September 24, 2021

Hello Hello I am Rishikesh Kumar


Qasim Shaikh

September 24, 2021

The most fascinating part was the use of the word Ahoy! .
It is generally used by sailors but I didn’t knew it was a greeting in older times.I wold like to read about the origin story of python language


Divya

September 24, 2021

Very good


Prerna deshmukh

September 24, 2021

It is so good hello hello
Bye


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