Etymology of "hello"

Discussion in 'Etymology, History of languages, and Linguistics (EHL)' started by sotos, Dec 9, 2011.

  1. sotos Senior Member

    I did a beginner's search through and I found only hundreds of salutations. If there is no other thread on that, does anybody know something about the origins of Hello, other than what I find in Etymoline? The motivation behind my question is the similarity with the Homeric greeting "Oule" (ούλε) (Od. 24, 402, ). This is the imperative of the v. oulo (I'm in good health)*o:entry+group=80:entry=ou)/lw.
  2. Scholiast

    Scholiast Senior Member

    Hello(!) sotos

    Try this:

    In general, it would be most unusual for such a common, old and colloquial English word or greeting to have any direct connexion - as your question seems somewhat optimistically to suggest you may be thinking - with a classical Greek ancestor.

    The Homeric word οὔλειν is much more likely to be related to Latin valere, and if LSJ's putative correlation with οὗλος/ὅλος is right, this looks like an IE relative of English "whole" and "hale", German heil.
  3. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    Here's a previous thread where this was addressed.

    I remember similar threads about French allô and Spanish hola (and ole), though I wasn't able to trace them all back. It's tempting to think these words might be somehow related, though the order of the vowels doesn't match. All seem to have obscure origins. It seems to me that such words could easily have started as calling phrases. For example, Portuguese olá (and Spanish hola, etc.) < ó lá, "hey there". But I've never found any evidence to corroborate this theory.
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2011
  4. terredepomme Senior Member

    Human Language
    From what I've heard it was originally an exclamation(hullo!) and the use of it as a greeting is in fact quite modern, which arised along with the invention of telephone. That's why the romance words "allô" "alo" etc are only used for phone conversations.
  5. miguel89

    miguel89 Senior Member

    Also older attestations of "hola" in Spanish work as interjections.
    From Cervantes:
  6. terredepomme Senior Member

    Human Language
    ¿Sería relacionado con la palabra francesa "hélas"?
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2011
  7. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    In Polish 'hola' means 'hey'. I do not know the etymology, but it may be just a 'natural' exclamation sound, that occurs in many languages.
  8. mataripis

    mataripis Senior Member

    For me it sounds as "Ellos" (They) and "Olos" (All) and that word may originate from "wholeness" of a person, Health of person.
  9. Scholiast

    Scholiast Senior Member

    Good evening

    (mataripis #8)

    With all respect, there is no connexion whatever.

    Spanish (el)los comes directly from the Latin demonstrative pronoun ille, specifically from its Accusative Masculine Plural form, illos. "Olos" (Greek ὅλος) is indeed in IE a cousin of English "whole", and may plausibly be related to Germanic/A-S/modern English "all" as well.
  10. sotos Senior Member

    So, you are saying that the German "heil" is unrelated to Eng. hello, but you agree that "heil" means "healthy" (whole) exactly as the homeric "Oule". If you are correct, English must be one of the european languages that the common salutation is nor related to the sense of health.
  11. aruniyan Senior Member

    can there be a connection with "Query", "Question",

    as often, initiating with a request or question.

    There is an Indian word "KEl" means "To ask" or "To Quest"
  12. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    This is actually a theme for another Thread.

    There is a good Online Etymology Dictionary that you can always consult for such questions. You find it here:
    It gives the following explanation: query: quaere, from L. quaere "ask," imperative of quaerere "to seek, gain, ask," probably ultimately from PIE *kwo-.
    So you can see that there is an obvious link to 'question': rom Anglo-Fr. questiun, O.Fr. question "legal inquest," from Latin quæstionem (nom. quæstio) "a seeking, inquiry.
    Inquire and inquiry also come from the same family.
    If by "Indian" word you mean a word in Hindi, or any related Indoeuropean language there is a probability that 'kei' is related. If this is a Tamil word, then it might be a loan from one of the Indoeuropean languages of India. If this is a native word, than it is even more interesting, as it sounds similar both to the Japanese question particle -ka and to the Finnish -ko.
  13. aruniyan Senior Member

    I am thinking of words like "Help", "Hear" etc... connected with "Hello".

    and my question does the words "Help or Hear" has any relation with Latin "Quer.."?

    Forget about the Tamil connection with "Hello", its too far to have direct connection.
    But FYI, KEL is south Indian(Dravidian) and available in all its Languages, so KEl is definitely not a loan word, there are n number of similar words
    KEl(ask), KElvi(Question),KElu,KEtpathu(Hear, Heed) etc...
  14. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    Why do you think there should be any?
  15. Lugubert Senior Member

    Gets my vote.

    Compare also
    with examples of practices that have an l in their names, from several language families.
  16. LilianaB Banned

    US New York
    They say it to a horse, in some countries, like Poland, for example, Hej vio, and Northern people say it to the dogs, or huskies that pull their sled.
    Last edited: Dec 18, 2011
  17. aruniyan Senior Member

    From i got these words, may be related to "hello"?

    Hear: O.E. heran (Anglian), (ge)hieran, hyran (W.Saxon) "to hear, listen (to), obey, follow; accede to, grant; judge," from P.Gmc. *hausjan (cf. O.N. heyra, O.Fris. hora, Du. horen, Ger. hören, Goth. hausjan), perhaps from PIE *kous- "to hear"

    Listen : O.E. hlysnan "to listen," from P.Gmc. *khlusinon (cf. O.H.G. hlosen "to listen," Ger. lauschen "to listen"), from PIE base *kleu- "hearing, to hear" (cf. Skt. srnoti "hears," srosati "hears, obeys;" Avestan sraothra "ear;" M.Pers. srod "hearing, sound;" Lith. klausau "to hear," slove "splendor, honor;" O.C.S. slusati "to hear," slava "fame, glory," slovo "word;" Gk. klyo "hear, be called," kleos "report, rumor, fame glory," kleio "make famous;" L. cluere "to hear oneself called, be spoken of;" O.Ir. ro-clui-nethar "hears," clunim "I hear," clu "fame, glory," cluada "ears;" Welsh clywaf "I hear;" O.E. hlud "loud," hleoðor "tone, tune;" O.H.G. hlut "sound;" Goth. hiluþ "listening, attention").

    Query/Quaero : quaere, from L. quaere "ask," imperative of quaerere "to seek, gain, ask," probably ultimately from PIE *kwo-.

    these words seems be connected and "Listen" seems to be the best match for "hello" :)

    For me this is Interesting , the Tamil words for each of the above..
    Hear/Listen: KElu, KEtpa
    Query : KElvi
  18. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    Heil and hallo are unrelated in German as well. In both English and German, hallo/hello is not primarily a salutation but an exclamation to attract attention. The use as a salutation is secondary.

    The word is most frequently associated with the OHG verb halon = to scream, to shout, to summon. E.g. here; but this explanation is incomplete as only the modern meaning holen = to fetch is mentioned. OHG halon is cognate to Latin calo and Greek καλέω.
    Last edited: Dec 19, 2011
  19. Perseas Senior Member

    There's also the verb call in English which means καλώ in Modern Greek. Are halon and call cognates?
  20. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    No. Call is of Anglo-Saxon origin. If you look for cognates of Germanic words starting with /k/ in Latin or Greek, you look for initial /g/ (Grimm's Law). A related Latin words are gallus < PIE *gal- = to cry, to shout.
  21. G a Senior Member

    Coahuila, Mexico
    American English, Español mexicano
    I don't know how far back the etymology can actually be traced, but one thing's sure--"hello," or "hola," or "halloo," with many other variants, were common Medieval hunting calls, at least in Middle and Modern English, and possibly several other languages; I don't know if it ever had a specific meaning, or was always just a general cry to attract someone's attention, but it definitely had that use.

    As far as its current usage as a greeting, it is quite modern--it didn't come into wide acceptance until the advent of the telephone. (by no means the only etymological dictionary with this explanation)
  22. G a Senior Member

    Coahuila, Mexico
    American English, Español mexicano
    Post #5 confirms that usage in Spanish.
  23. mataripis

    mataripis Senior Member

    An expression that let others know you. Hello for me comes from Greek "Olos" meaning all.But in many asian countries, the sound " oy" is the equivalent of hello. It is a greeting by any one in any country.In Greece this sounds " Ya" (geia)!
  24. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    Can you substantiate this? What means "for me"? Etymology has nothing to do with personal preference.
  25. fra77x New Member

    I was thinking Hello derives from greek έλα which means "come", welcome. Is there a chance?
  26. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    There is no etymological h in έλα. That makes it a rather farfetched theory.
  27. ernest_

    ernest_ Senior Member

    Catalan, Spain
    The University of Texas' Linguistic Research Center suggests a common Indo-European origin (page 29), based on the work of Julius Pokorny.
  28. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    A very questionable interpretation of Pokorny. The French âllo is a recent loan and certainly not a direct IE reflex; the etymology of Spanish hola is completely in the dark and the alledged Greek reflex has nothing to do with hullo/hallo/hello. Leaves the Germanic, specifically German, as the only halfway credible source, provided German hallo and English hullo/hallo/hello aren't chance coincidences which would be the case, if English hullo/hallo/hello were derived from French holà as stated in etymonline.
  29. mataripis

    mataripis Senior Member

    I'm sorry . But the word itself clearly describes wholeness and it sounds altered whole that became he- llo.the feeling when uttering this word is focused on the person's identity as a whole.people may have varied intellect but some are unaware in the sense of feelings which has no written data or records.
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2014
  30. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    This is about the actual history of the word (inheritance, loaning, sound shifts, etc.), not fellings one may attach to the sounds of the word. Unless you can demonstrate how this relates to the actual history of the word, such comments are out of scope in this forum.
  31. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    Neither Pokorny nor the Texan site actually says that English “hello” or German “hallo” come from the alleged IE *alā-. Pokorny in fact says: „nhd. hallo, holla sind dagegen aus dem Imperativ von ahd. halón, holón ‚holen‘ entwickelte Rufworte“.
  32. mataripis

    mataripis Senior Member

    Why it has double l? Is ll -y and y-g? Producing word e yeo which is almost geia of Greek!H Geia is health and geia sas is hello!
  33. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    The spelling ll was just a long l as you would use in an shout.
  34. parieur Senior Member

    Moderator note: Split off from here. and merged with existing thread on the same topic. :)

    I notice that Hutschi mentioned the (German?) word "hallo".
    Being a German beginner myself, I was under the impression that it was a German word.
    Is this not so?

    le P
    Last edited by a moderator: May 20, 2016
  35. Frieder

    Frieder Senior Member

    Yes, it is a German word:
    Ursprünglich der Imperativ zu ahd. halon, holon, vergleichbar mit holla zu holen. Eigentlich Zuruf an den Fährmann (hol über) mit im Zuruf gedehnter Endsilbe (Pluti), die deshalb in voller Form erhalten bleibt. (Kluge, etymologisches Wörterbuch d. deutschen Sprache)​
  36. kency Senior Member

    English - SE England
    Yes parieur, 'Hallo' is very old fashioned in English and not specific to it. Many European languages have a variation (e.g. hola) and it originates from Arabic according to most theories.
  37. parieur Senior Member

    Thank you both!

    le P
  38. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    I am not usually citing Wiktionary as an authoritative resource but this sums it up quite well:
    The derivation Frieder cited is the current consensus view.

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