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Senior Member

Today I came across the word "hail-fellow-well-met". As far as I remember, it refers to somebody who is very cheerful and friendly from the moment of greeting. However, all the sources in which I managed to find this expression underline its pejorative ring and old-fashionism :eek: . Do you, BrEnglish speakers, consider this expression obsolete and derogatory?

Thank you!

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  • TurnLeft

    British English
    Seeing as I had to look it up myself when you asked, I would say it's definitely an obsolete term.

    (Interestingly, the American Heritage New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy makes mention of the derogatory factor, but the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language doesn't.)

    Matching Mole

    Senior Member
    England, English
    I would say it is generally disapproving as it implies over-familiarity. The quotations in the OED are all over 100 years old, but most of them use it critically.

    I wouldn't say it was obsolete, although I don't hear it used very much. However, I wouldn't think anyone odd or out-of-touch for using it. I think I would expect to find in written rather than in conversation.


    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    The OED definition is helpful.
    On such terms, or using such freedom with another, as to accost him with ‘hail, fellow!’; on a most intimate footing; over familiar or unduly intimate.

    I feel it is archaic, but it might still be used of someone who presumes a close relationship on the basis of a very brief acquaintance.


    Senior Member
    American English (Mostly MidAtlantic)
    It may be archaic but I have heard it used in my lifetime (apparently, I'm archaic too). I always took it to mean someone who is overtly friendly, very congenial, but not someone with whom you are close personal friends. I always felt there was undertone of "hail fellow well met" and glad you are now leaving.

    Matching Mole

    Senior Member
    England, English
    It's interesting that virtually every instance of "hail fellow well met" that comes up in Google is from a dictionary or English usage reference or discussion site. However, I did come up with:

    'Barack Obama’s Beloved “Hail Fellow Well Met” Presidency'

    which is the title of a Republican blog post from last year (needless to say, the usage is unflattering). I think an article or similar piece of writing is probably where I would most expect to find it.

    "Well met" and "hail" are certainly antiquated greetings, but the whole has survived as fossilized phrase, and I think in more recent usage the speaker is knowingly quoting old speech rather than using it directly, so it is, in a sense, not as "archaic" a usage as it may sound.


    Senior Member
    English UK
    Pejorative - no:thumbsdown:
    Old-fashioned, and therefore used only ironically - yes:thumbsup:

    King Crimson

    Modus in fabula
    I've just found another instance of this expression in the Wiki entry relevant to Hank Schrader (all fans of "Breaking Bad" will know who I'm talking about):

    Gilligan says Hank was supposed to be a "hail fellow well met and a figure of worship for Walt, Jr.," but developed him when he realized how "smart, sensitive, and well educated" Norris was.

    And yes, knowing the character's evolution mentioned by Gilligan, I think ewie's explanation is spot-on.
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