Thursday, 2 May 2013

Hello and Hi

 "Hi" and "Hello", although slowly going out of use in some circles, still remain some of the most used words in our daily lives, yet what do they mean and where do they come from? Here is some information gained from old style dictionary reading.

On the origins of "Hi" and "Hello".

According to Merriam-Webster's 11th Collegiate Dictionary, "Hi" is an interjection "used especially as a greeting", Middle English "Hy", 15th century.

The Oxford English Dictionary lists "hi" (a parallel form to "hey") as an exclamation used to call attention, and dates it to 1475. "Hey" is a call to attract attention; also, an exclamation expressing exultation, incitement, surprise, etc. dating to 1225.

"Hey" in the Etymological Dictionary of the English Language, by Walter W. Skeat, Oxford University Press, is an interjection; from Middle English "hei", and is a natural exclamation and interjection, i.e. "hei", "hey", and "ho". Historically used in literature in 1445.

The Webster's 1828 dictionary lists "hey" as an exclamation of joy or mutual exhortation.

Webster's Third New International Dictionary, unabridged, seconds the Merriam-Webster's 11th, and lists "hello" and "hi" as greetings.

According to the Kindle Oxford Dictionary of English, "Hello", also "hallo" or "hullo", is of late 19th century origin, and a variant of earlier "hollo", and related to "holla". "Holla" is an archaic exclamation used to call attention to something; originating in the early 16th century and used as an order to stop, cease, or "hold", from French "holà", from "ho" + "là", "là" meaning "there".

According to Webster's 1828 dictionary, "holla" and "hollo" is an exclamation, used among seamen in answer to one who hails, equivalent to "I hear, and am ready". It is also related to "halloo". "Holla" and "hollo" is related to Saxon "ahlowan". "Halloo" seems to be related to the family of "call", French "haler". "Halloo" means to cry out; to exclaim with a loud voice; also to call or invite attention, or to encourage with shouts.

An Etymological Dictionary of the English Language, by Walter W. Skeat, Oxford University Press, lists "halloo, hallow": to shout; Middle English "halowen", to chase with shouts; from Old French "halloer", meaning to pursue with shouts. Of imitative origin, derived from "haller", or encourage dogs with hallowing.

The listing for "hello" in the Oxford English Dictionary states that it is a variant of "hallo" and is an exclamation to call attention; also expressing some degree of surprise, as on meeting anyone unexpectedly.
"Hallo, halloa", a later form of "hollo", German "hallo, halloh", also Old High German "halâ, holâ", emphatic imperative of "halân, holân": to fetch, used especially in hailing a ferryman. "Halloo" (perhaps a varied form of "hollo" and suited to a prolonged cry intended to be heard at a distance) is an exclamation to incite dogs to chase, to call attention at a distance, to express surprise, etc. "Hello" dates back to 1883; "hallo" dates back to 1781; and "halloo" dates back to 1605, and, as a variant of "hallew", and meaning "to urge or incite with shouts", dates back to 1568.

"Hello" appears to have started with mimicking the sound of a dog's howl, or as a natural expression that is a result of exhaling with intention to express notice. "Hi" also seems to have started as a natural expression of surprise, similar to "oy".

"Hi" and "hello" are apparently unrelated to each other etymologically, and also do not appear to be related to "hail" or "ahoy", but all are likely independently sourced in natural exclamations, similar to "ow", "ah", "huh", "wow", and "aaargh".

The beginnings of "hi" and "hello" are probably from the natural sound of breathing out ("H" sound) and vowel sounds that occur when raising the voice when heightened mental alertness responds to an external stimulus. Pain and surprise often cause vowel sounds naturally. Originally "hello" had an "o" sound that included raised, rather than lowered, tone. Lowering the tone at the end of a word often accompanies cold declaration or calm puzzlement, while raising the tone often accompanies curiosity or surprise.

It is interesting to note that one of the earliest written record of the use of the greeting interjection (hey) is the early 13th century, which is also the time when our records show many stories being transformed from oral traditions to documented literature. Writing from earlier times is not necessarily missing due to illiteracy, but probably from damaged libraries and lost records. The organic materials that early books were made of often do not survive time and its company. Creatures, rot, political unrest, fire, and pilfering often terminate documentation.