Do you ever answer the telephone at your house? When you do, what do you say? Perhaps you start with a hearty “Greetings and salutations!” Or maybe you pretend to be a cowboy and greet your caller with a friendly “Howdy!”

Most likely, though, you use that common greeting that most people use: a simple “Hello.” After all, hello is one of the most popular ways to greet people, whether it’s on the phone or when meeting a friend on the street.

As common as it is today, you would probably think that we’ve been using hello as long as the English language has been around. Believe it or not, hello has only been around since the late 1820s.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the first published use of hello was in 1827. However, back then, it wasn’t used mainly as a greeting.

Instead, hello was used either to get someone’s attention (“Hello, what’s going on here?”) or to show surprise (“Hello, what happened here?”). This early usage may stem from the fact that hello probably developed from words in Old High German (hallo and hollo, meaning “to fetch” and shouted during a hunt when prey was spotted) and French (holla or hola, meaning “whoa there!”).

The exact origins of hello are not clear, though. There are a few other ideas about where hello might have come from. Some believe hello came from hullo, which was a British word used to draw attention, express surprise or greet another.

Author Bill Bryon believes that hello came from the Old English phrase hál béo þu, which meant “whole be thou.” This phrase was used to wish someone good health.

Hello wasn’t used as a greeting until many years later when the telephone was invented. Inventor Thomas Edison is given credit for suggesting the use of hello as a standard greeting when answering a telephone.

Edison’s competitor, Alexander Graham Bell, had his own idea for a proper telephone greeting. Instead of hello, he preferred the word “ahoy.” While ahoy may sound funny to us today, the word actually had been used as a greeting for a long time among sailors.

Can you imagine answering your telephone today with a loud “Ahoy!”? Kind of makes you feel like a pirate, doesn’t it? Alexander Graham Bell liked the word so much that he continued to answer the telephone that way his whole life.

Hello eventually won the battle, though. Historians credit hello’s victory to the first telephone books. Since people were unfamiliar with these new devices, telephone books contained detailed instructions regarding proper telephone use. Which greeting did they recommend? You guessed it: hello.


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    • Hello there, Jaclyn! Thanks for visiting today’s Wonder of the Day®! We’re really glad to hear from you! :-)

    • That’s a GREAT question, Jaclyn, and something awesome to WONDER about! Thank you for hanging out in Wonderopolis with us today! :-)

  1. When I pick up the phone I don’t say hello, I know hello is the usual greeting but I say… “sparkly beeswax chicken, what’s so important that you have to take up my time?”

    • What an interesting greeting for when you answer the phone, Wonderboy! We’re super glad you stopped by Wonderopolis today and shared it with us! :-)

    • It makes our day that you enjoy learning in Wonderopolis so much, Kamryn! Thank you for visiting today’s Wonder of the Day®! :-)

    I come on here every day at school! I would have never found this website if my teacher didn’t tell me about it!!!!!!!!!!

    • Well, we think your teacher ROCKS and we think YOU ROCK, too, Emma! Thank you for letting us know you visit Wonderopolis every day at school! Please let your teacher know that we appreciate him or her for inspiring you and your classmates to WONDER! :-)

  3. This was a awesome wonder for wonderopolis because I have wondered why do we say hello and how long. This was a awesome wonder. This is why I like to go to wonderopolis.

    • What a WONDERful comment you left for us, Madison! Thank you for sharing your enthusiasm for visiting Wonderopolis! We’re so glad you enjoyed exploring this Wonder of the Day® with us today! :-)

    • That’s a GREAT question, Ellen! Here are a few of our favorite greetings:

      Welcome to Wonderopolis!


    • “HELLO,” McKenzie! Thanks for exploring today’s Wonder and for letting us know you thought it was FUN! We think learning in Wonderopolis is always FUN, don’t you? :-)

    • That’s a COOL question, Hallie! Thomas Edison is often credited with suggesting everyone use the word, “hello,” as a way to start a telephone conversation! We WONDER what it would be like if everyone around the world came up with their own word to say when they answered the phone instead of saying, “hello?” It might get confusing (but then again, it might be FUN, too!)! :-)

    • Woo, hoo! It makes us REALLY glad to know that you visit Wonderopolis every day, Cait! Thanks for telling us that you thought today’s Wonder was awesome and educational! We appreciate you saying that! :-)

    • Learning new things is REALLY interesting to everyone here in Wonderopolis, too, Brandon! Thanks for being an AWESOME Wonder Friend and letting us know you stopped by today’s Wonder of the Day®! :-)

  4. That was a very good wonder of the day. P.S. Sorry I have not been with you guys for a while. I always forgot to do this in the morning.

    • We’re SUPER happy we got to hear from you today, Truckerbuddy, and we’re glad you liked today’s Wonder, too! We hope you have a WONDERful day! :-)

  5. There sure are a lot of ways to say ‘hello.’ We liked the video and were those guys British? Ahoy would be a fun way to answer the phone. We’re all pretty sure we’re sticking with hello. We think tomorrow might be about why monkeys LOVE bananas. Have a WONDERFUL weekend!

    • Hi there, Mr. Draper’s Class! We’re pretty sure the chaps in the video are British. We thought it was funny how they kept saying “hello” so much! We might try to answer our phone one time with a hearty, “ahoy!” It would be interesting to hear how the person on the other end of the line might react! We hope YOU GUYS have a WONDERul weekend, too! Do some WONDERing, OK? :-)

    • We think that ROCKS, Mrs. Denning’s Class Grade 2! It was SUPER cool to learn how far we’ve some, technology-wise, wasn’t it? Thanks for visiting Wonderopolis today and THANKS for being awesome Wonder Friends! :-)

    • Thanks for letting us know you thought today’s Wonder was cool, Caelah! We think YOU are really COOL for sharing your comment with us! :-)

  6. Bonjour, wonderopolis! When I call on the phone or when someone calls me, I always say hello to them but I don’t say it in French, I say it only in English, but I only say it in French when my other family members call us in Canada. I think calling is kind of like doing skype, but it’s a little bit different because you talk to them and you can see them. Oh and can you do a wonder about why does ice melt?

  7. We liked learning how to say hello and goodbye in other languages. :)

    We think tomorrow’s wonder might be about monkey bars or monkeys.

    • Howdy, Miss Kirsten’s Kindergarten GT Class! We thought it was fun to learn those greetings in other languages, too! Your guess about tomorrow’s Wonder is GREAT! We can’t wait to see if your guess is correct!

      Arrivederci! :-)

    • Thanks so much for letting us know you liked this Wonder of the Day®, Emily! We’re REALLY HAPPY to hear that! We hope you have a WONDERful weekend! :-)

    • Helloooooo, to you too, Shay! We like that fun way to say, “hello!” Thanks for stopping by today’s Wonder about “hello” to say, “helloo!” YOU ROCK! :-)

    • Happy Friday, Lima Bean Machine! We like your guess about tomorrow’s Wonder…it’s GREAT! We can’t wait to visit Wonderopolis tomorrow to see which of our Wonder Friends’ guesses is correct! Whatever the Wonder topic may be, we know we will ALL be learning about something FUN! :-)

    • Hi, Tristin! Thanks for sharing what you think tomorrow’s Wonder will be about! We think you’re WONDERful for leaving us a comment today! :-)

    • We thought so, too, John! Then, when they brought the third guy in on the phone call, it got even funnier! Thanks for letting us know you liked the video for today’s Wonder! :-)

    • You’re the second WONDERful Wonder Friend who thinks that about tomorrow’s Wonder, Sara! Mrs. Wilbanks thinks that, too! We WONDER if you know her (wink, wink!)? :-)

  8. That was very interesting! Since I say “Hello” all the time, even if there’s no reason to (ha ha!)!

    • Thanks for leaving us this GREAT comment to let us know you thought today’s Wonder was interesting, Annie! We like your sense of humor AND your sense of WONDER! :-)

    • We like that WONDERing, Mr. P. and Mr. Spain’s 2nd graders! We’re not sure, but we think phrases like “Top of the morning to you!” or “Nice to see you today!” are polite ways to say hello without actually saying “hello!” Maybe folks used those types of greetings before the invention of the telephone? :-)

    • We think a future Wonder about saber tooth tigers is a GREAT idea, Nolan! Thank you so much for suggesting it, and THANK YOU for visiting Wonderopolis today! :-)

    • That’s a super clever idea for looking cool while communicating, Clayton! Thanks for sharing it with everyone in Wonderopolis today! :-)

  9. Wonderopolis,

    • We think it’s great that you want a turtle, Jared! We also think a future Wonder of the Day® about turtles would be FUN! :-)

  10. Hey, I think this is a great wonderopolis! My teacher made us do a prediction about this and I thought we said something else, but I guess I was wrong. Anyways,bye

    • It’s OK that you guessed this Wonder might be something different, Morgan! WONDERing about Wonders and trying to guess what the next one might be is half the fun! That’s why we only give our Wonder Friends a super small clue! :-)

  11. This website is so cool. My school loves you guys. I go to Bailey school. Mr.P. always puts on Wonderopolis and we look what the wonder of the day is!

    • We’re super happy to hear from you today, Reilly! Thanks for sharing a little about yourself and that you and your schoolmates at BES love learning in Wonderopolis! We think Mr. P. ROCKS! Please tell him we said, “Hello!” :-)

    • It makes us super happy to hear that you think Wonderopolis is AMAZING, Lisa! We want to welcome you and your classmates! Thanks for hanging out and WONDERing with us today! :-)

  12. I’m from Australia so I have a strong accent and whenever I pick up the phone, I usually say g-day mate! But I’m trying to learn English vocabulary! :)

    • We think it’s really neat that you’re from Australia, Liam! It’s AWESOME to meet Wonder Friends (like YOU!) who live in different places around the world! Thanks for sharing how you say, “hello!” :-)

    • We’re so glad you thought this Wonder was interesting, Michael! Thanks for letting us know and THANKS for visiting Wonderopolis! :-)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Have we always said hello?
  • Who encouraged the use of hello as a telephone greeting?
  • What greeting did Alexander Graham Bell use when he answered the telephone?

Wonder Gallery

Try It Out

Ready to travel the world? Learning how to say certain words in other languages can be really fun. Ask a friend or family member to join you to learn how to say “hello” and “goodbye” in the following languages:

  • French: hello = bonjour / goodbye = au revoir
  • Spanish: hello = hola / goodbye = adios
  • German: hello = hallo / goodbye = auf Wiedersehen
  • Italian: hello = ciao / goodbye = arrivederci
  • Japanese: hello = konnichiwa / goodbye = sayonara


Still Wondering

Explore Science NetLinks’ Technology at Home interactive to go back through the twentieth century to find out when everyday items such as telephones, computers and televisions first appeared in homes.


Wonder What’s Next?

Tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day may seem like pure monkey business!

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