Is it true that the word “hello” was coined as a way to answer the (way back then) newly invented telephone? I have heard that the first phrase used was “Hoy hoy,” which amuses me greatly because that’s how the ancient Mr. Burns of “The Simpsons” answers his phone.

“My hovercraft is full of eels.”

I’ve heard that in Spanish and French “Allo” is used specifically for answering the phone – nothing else. The few native French speakers I know confirmed this for me, and my Spanish teacher also concurs.

The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.
– Henry David Thoreau

In Bill Bryson’s excellent book “Mother Tongue: English and How It Got That Way”, he mentions that most etymologists believe that “hello” is a contraction of “Whole Be Thou”, and friendly, kind of “glad to see you in one piece” sort of greeting.

“Knowing others is wisdom. Knowing yourself is enlightenment.” - Lao-tzu, Chinese philosopher

All the Mexican immigrants to the U.S. that I know (and I know quite a few) answer the telephone “Pronto,” at least until the volume of calls they receive from native English speakers starts to outweigh the ones they get from their mostly Spanish speaking friends and relatives. (It rarely happens, lol). The word means, literally, uh… pronto.
Quickly, swiftly. Their explanation is it means “I’m here. Begin speaking (quickly, because this costs money”).

“Hallo”, “Hillo”, “Hollo” and “Hullo” are all very old words. They all more or less mean “Hey, over there!” or “Golly!”. I am not familiar with the “Whole be thou,” theory, but I doubt it very much.

“Hello” with an “e” was invented by Thomas Alva Edison (!) especially for answering the telephone. Bell used “Ahoy!”

Most languages use a different word for answering the telephone than for meeting someone on the street. The most interesting example is probably Italian, where “Pronto” is the way to answer the telephone, but, when used on the street, translates into something like “Hello, sailor!”. (It literally means “Ready!”)

For some reason, in English, the telephone word took over for the regular words, such as “Good morning,” “Good day,” “Well met,” etc.

John W. Kennedy
“Compact is becoming contract; man only earns and pays.”
– Charles Williams

Kind of a cute thing, but today’s Learning Kingdom’s Coll Word of the Day, is Hello. :slight_smile: The information indicates that hello came from Halloo, and was rare in usage before phones.

>>while contemplating the navel of the universe, I wondered, is it an innie or outie?<<

—The dragon observes

Which is believed to have come from the old French Hola, Ho (Ho!) and la (There). And yes, I know that spanish also uses Hola, so it could be spanish, save english is a bit more french influenced.

>>while contemplating the navel of the universe, I wondered, is it an innie or outie?<<

—The dragon observes

Miriam Webster says it’s an alteration of hollo and gives a coinage date of 1889.

Just another telephone phrase to throw in: the Japanese answer the phone, “Moshi Moshi!”. I don’t recall if this phrase was used for anything else, but I don’t think so.

In Spain people say “Diga” or “Dime,” which means “Talk to me.”

I should add that I’ve NEVER heard them say “Hola” or “Allo,” but I can’t speak for all Spanish-speaking countries.

I think I’m going to retract the part of my post that claimed Spanish-speakers would answer the phone “allo” (I’m sure I got it from my Foreign language classes, but they’ve led me astray before.) But I KNOW that French speakers answer the phone that way.

The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.
– Henry David Thoreau

Italians answer the phone saying “pronto”. I have never heard a mexican (or any spanish speaking person) answering the phone that way.
This is a list of most common answers (that I have heard):

*Aló? (hello?)
*Bueno? (well?)
*Sí? (yes?)
*Sí, diga? (Yes, say… -“go ahead”-)
*Diga… (say… -“go ahead”-)

And according to the Encarta Encyclopedia (I know, I know, it’s Microsoft…), the word “hello” comes from the obsolete holla, stop!.

In Spain it’s “Dígame.” ¡Hola! is used normally to say “hello” to people.