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

Team StoryWeavers|September 22, 2021| 136

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 of how the word “OK” was invented. If you haven’t checked that out, then do click here to read all about it. 

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.

About the Author


Generic placeholder image
Raza Mehdi

As a true introvert, Raza Mehdi shudders at the thought of having to expose very much of himself willingly and with malice-aforethought. Writing online since 2008; fiction, poetry, and articles on science, politics, humour and history. When he is not working, he is either trekking in mountains or sleeping. In his own words, the most apt description of him would be: Biryani on social media, daal chawal in person.

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Comments



Prerna deshmukh

September 24, 2021

It is so good hello hello
Bye


Divya

September 24, 2021

Very good


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


Rishikesh

September 24, 2021

Hello Hello I am Rishikesh Kumar


B.lasya reddy

September 24, 2021

Nice


Satya swarup biswal

September 24, 2021

Old high german


Himika Bhakta

September 24, 2021

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


Shruti kaslikar

September 24, 2021

Why we say goodbye


Adhar kumar Gupta

September 24, 2021

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


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


Shrestha Halder

September 24, 2021

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


Nice & Interesting.

September 24, 2021

Nice & Interesting.


Nihal t manoj

September 24, 2021

What is the story of ok


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


GURASEES CHAHAL

September 24, 2021

AMAZING STORY BYJUS THANK YOU BYJUS GIVEING ME A BEST LEARNING


Prateek prabhakar

September 24, 2021

SIR WHAT IS THE MEANING OF BYJUS


Harshita

September 24, 2021

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


Anonymous

September 24, 2021

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


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


Angel Gupta

September 24, 2021

It’s a very funny history of “Hello”


shresth sahoo

September 24, 2021

Why are games so addictive


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


Bhautik S.M

September 24, 2021

How did OH MY GOD or OMG originate


Adarsh Tiwari

September 24, 2021

Hi


Yashaswini

September 24, 2021

It’s nice


Anushree

September 24, 2021

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


Krishna goyal

September 24, 2021

Wow!!!!


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.


Vedhika

September 24, 2021

Love reading your article


Bhushan Takzure

September 24, 2021

It was amazing , and HELLO!! ☺️


Bhushan Takzure

September 24, 2021

#Thanks Byju’s#


Sagar Jagadeesh Bhat

September 24, 2021

Nice and interesting .


Nice

September 24, 2021

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


Ayush Mishra

September 24, 2021

Hello


Roshni Nishant Mone

September 24, 2021

Thank you,
Important information.


M.sashi

September 24, 2021

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


Sampurnna Dutta

September 24, 2021

Amazing & interesting


Kumar ANSH RAJ

September 24, 2021

It’s amazing


Nisha Rathore

September 24, 2021

I love byjus


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…..


Samarth kanu

September 24, 2021

Hello Hello i am Samarth


Sam Rajveer

September 24, 2021

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


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


Samiksha Shakya

September 24, 2021

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


Manjot kaur

September 24, 2021

Nice and interesting


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!!


Shiva

September 24, 2021

Why we say good bye


Karen Sibi

September 24, 2021

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Gungun

September 24, 2021

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


Nausheen Rahman

September 25, 2021

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

Thank you so much
BYJUS….


PRATYUSH MAURYA

September 25, 2021

HELLO SIR 👋👋


K.sahithi

September 25, 2021

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September 25, 2021

So cool😇😇😇😇


Bhargav Dhar

September 25, 2021

Very nice


ASWINKRISHNA. S

September 25, 2021

Byjus


L.Rishitha

September 25, 2021

Thank u byjus for clearing my doubts


Gurleen

September 25, 2021

~#HELLO…..~

_*IT WAS AMAZING*_


Bhuvanya

September 25, 2021

I am feeling so happy


S.HEMANTH KUMAR JAIN

September 25, 2021

Good


Rudra Yadav

September 25, 2021

In 1826 fist time hello been written


J.Vaishnavi

September 25, 2021

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


Bhautik S.M

September 25, 2021

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


Spoorthy

September 25, 2021

Ahoy! Captain


Palak Ujjainiya

September 25, 2021

Very nice story


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


Parth dawane

September 25, 2021

REALLY ITS NICE
and the history of hello is very funny


Satadru

September 25, 2021

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


Kaustubh kailas kayande

September 25, 2021

Hello, I’m Kauatubh, It’s great😀


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


Saanvi thakur

September 25, 2021

AMAZING STORY BYJUS THANK YOU BYJUS GIVING ME A BEST LEARNING


Saanvi thakur

September 25, 2021

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


Àñkít kûmàr Gúptà

September 25, 2021

Hello sir


Qareen

September 25, 2021

Hello


Satvik

September 25, 2021

Interesting information..
Thank you BYJU’S


Raman

September 25, 2021

It’s wonderful please send me more like this


Devendra

September 25, 2021

Byju’s best


Satyam Swapnil

September 25, 2021

Thank you Byju’s for this important information.


Shreeja

September 25, 2021

Fully 🤣🤣


Akshatha

September 25, 2021

Very good question


Naman bhardwaj

September 25, 2021

Hello, I am curious to know the word television.


Md umair

September 25, 2021

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


Md umair

September 25, 2021

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


Tarun.H.R

September 25, 2021

What is the story of hey!


Sakshi Verma

September 25, 2021

It’s great. 💕
I love this.💕


Nimish

September 25, 2021

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


Vansh

September 25, 2021

Hello


Navita Dinesh Kumar Jatav

September 25, 2021

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


Ayush Roy

September 25, 2021

Who did this excellent and very funny work


Ayush Roy

September 25, 2021

Omg!!!!!!!!


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 💯


Kanika

September 25, 2021

Very good and exciting story.


Maji

September 25, 2021

I like to say wassup or hey or hey dude


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


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


Yash kumar

September 26, 2021

It is so good hello hello


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


Aadrika Singh

September 26, 2021

Very Nice..😊😊


Shreyanshi parida

September 26, 2021

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


Ananya Trivedi

September 26, 2021

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


Shree Gowri

September 26, 2021

Very nice


Haniya bee

September 26, 2021

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


Haniya bee

September 26, 2021

Hello i am Haniya bee


NEHA chheda

September 26, 2021

Nice


Yuvti Ravindra Chaugule

September 26, 2021

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


Manpreet

September 26, 2021

Nice Story


Laxmi Prasanna

September 26, 2021

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


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


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


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…?😊


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


SAURYAM

September 26, 2021

It is very good app in my class l sencod in my class because of byjus


Uday

September 26, 2021

This is useful information and interesting


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?


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…


Shashank Kumar

September 26, 2021

This is excellent


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


Rushi Priya

September 27, 2021

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


Anonymous

September 28, 2021

This was interesting to read!


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


Arya Agarwal

September 28, 2021

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


Aditri Das

September 28, 2021

Very nice 👌


Dhruv Hasaragundgi

September 29, 2021

ahoy!


Arnav Zunjare

September 29, 2021

Hello anyone there?


Saksham Paliwal

September 29, 2021

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


Brikesh Pathak

September 29, 2021

That’s good


Mahi Choudhary

September 29, 2021

Very Good


Kuldeep Saini

September 30, 2021

Nice


Sumer Sandilya

September 30, 2021

Hi hello history of hello I like it


Sapana jaychand Gaikwad

October 1, 2021

oh my god hello


lokesh s pokar

October 1, 2021

hi i want a free class on byju;s


Sanyam Agarwal

October 2, 2021

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


Aashna

October 2, 2021

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


Mehnaz Parveen

October 3, 2021

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


Janhvi Hiwrale

October 3, 2021

“Hello” . Intresting.


Mardav

October 3, 2021

Best best byju is the best


Fatima

October 4, 2021

Wow nice


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