Hello, with that spelling, was used in publications in the U.S. as early as the 18 October 1826 edition of the Norwich Courier of Norwich, Connecticut. Another early use was an 1833 American book called The Sketches and Eccentricities of Col. David Crockett, of West Tennessee, which was reprinted that same year in The London Literary Gazette. The word was extensively used in literature by the 1860s.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, hello is an alteration of hallo, hollo, which came from Old High German "halâ, holâ, emphatic imperative of halôn, holôn to fetch, used especially in hailing a ferryman". It also connects the development of hello to the influence of an earlier form, holla, whose origin is in the French holà (roughly, 'whoa there!', from French là 'there'). As in addition to hello, halloo, hallo, hollo, hullo and (rarely) hillo also exist as variants or related words, the word can be spelt using any of all five vowels.
Before the telephone, greetings often included a name and a time of day, such as "Good morning, Doctor", but on the telephone, it isn't immediately known who is speaking or whether they share the same time zone. So greetings without time began to catch on.
The use of hello as a telephone greeting has been credited to Thomas Edison; according to one source, he expressed his surprise with a misheard Hullo. Alexander Graham Bell initially used Ahoy (as used on ships) as a telephone greeting. However, in 1877, Edison wrote to T. B. A. David, president of the Central District and Printing Telegraph Company of Pittsburgh:
Friend David, I do not think we shall need a call bell as Hello! can be heard 10 to 20 feet away. What you think? Edison – P.S. first cost of sender & receiver to manufacture is only $7.00.
A 1918 fiction novel uses the spelling "Halloa" in the context of telephone conversations.
Hullo, hallo, and other spellings
Hello might be derived from an older spelling variant, hullo, which the American Merriam-Webster dictionary describes as a "chiefly British variant of hello", and which was originally used as an exclamation to call attention, an expression of surprise, or a greeting. Hullo is found in publications as early as 1803. The word hullo is still in use, with the meaning hello.
Hello is alternatively thought to come from the word hallo (1840) via hollo (also holla, holloa, halloo, halloa). The definition of hollo is to shout or an exclamation originally shouted in a hunt when the quarry was spotted:
If I fly, Marcius,/Halloo me like a hare.
And the good south wind still blew behind,
But no sweet bird did follow,
Nor any day for food or play
Came to the mariners' hollo!
In many Germanic languages, including German, Danish, Norwegian, Dutch and Afrikaans, "hallo" literally translates into English as "hello". In the case of Dutch, it was used as early as 1797 in a letter from Willem Bilderdijk to his sister-in-law as a remark of astonishment.
Webster's dictionary from 1913 traces the etymology of holloa to the Old English halow and suggests: "Perhaps from ah + lo; compare Anglo Saxon ealā".
The Old English verb, hǽlan (1. wv/t1b 1 to heal, cure, save; greet, salute; gehǽl! Hosanna!), may be the ultimate origin of the word. Hǽlan is likely a cognate of German Heil (meaning complete for things and healthy for beings) and other similar words of Germanic origin. Bill Bryson asserts in his book Mother Tongue that "hello" comes from Old English hál béo þu ("Hale be thou", or "whole be thou", meaning a wish for good health; cf. "goodbye" which is a contraction of "God be with ye").
"Hello, World" computer program
Students learning a new computer programming language will often begin by writing a "Hello, World!" program, which does nothing but issue the message "Hello, world" to the user (such as by displaying it on a screen). It has been used since the earliest programs, in many computer languages. This tradition was further popularised after being printed in an introductory chapter of the book The C Programming Language by Kernighan & Ritchie. The book had reused an example taken from a 1974 memo by Brian Kernighan at Bell Laboratories.
- "hello". Oxford English Dictionary (Online ed.). Oxford University Press. (Subscription or participating institution membership required.)
- (Anonymous). The Sketches and Eccentricities of Col. David Crockett, of West Tennessee. New York: J. & J. Harper, 1833. p. 144.
- "The Sketches and Eccentricities of Col. David Crockett, of West Tennessee". The London Literary Gazette; and Journal of Belles Lettres, Arts, Sciences, &c. No. 883: 21 December 1833. p. 803.
-  Origin of the word.
- "hallo". Oxford English Dictionary (Online ed.). Oxford University Press. (Subscription or participating institution membership required.)
- "holla". Oxford English Dictionary (Online ed.). Oxford University Press. (Subscription or participating institution membership required.)
- Butler, Mann, A History of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, Wilcox, Dickerman & Co., 1834, p. 106.
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- "Definition of HILLO". www.merriam-webster.com.
- McCulloch, Gretchen. Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language. Riverhead. pp. 201–202. ISBN 0735210934.
- Allen Koenigsberg. "The First "Hello!": Thomas Edison, the Phonograph and the Telephone – Part 2". Antique Phonograph Magazine. Vol. VIII, no. 6. Archived from the original on 16 November 2006.
- Allen Koenigsberg (1999). "All Things Considered". National Public Radio. Archived from the original on 9 March 2009. Retrieved 13 September 2006.
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- Dehan, Richard (1918). That which Hath Wings: A Novel of the Day. G. P. Putnam. ISBN 978-1-5332-9337-4.
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- "Ashes: England v Australia – day one as it happened | Andy Bull and Rob Smyth". The Guardian. London. 16 July 2009. Retrieved 26 September 2009.
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- Baily's Magazine of Sports and Pastimes. Vinton. 1907. p. 127.
- The New Fowler's, revised third edition by R. W. Burchfield, Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-860263-4, p. 356.
- Bilderdijk, Willem Liefde en ballingschap. Brieven 1795–1797 (ed. Marita Mathijsen). Uitgeverij De Arbeiderspers, Amsterdam/Antwerp 1997
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- Kernighan, Brian W.; Ritchie, Dennis M. (1978). The C Programming Language (1st ed.). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall. ISBN 0-13-110163-3.
- Kernighan, Brian (1974). "Programming in C: A Tutorial" (PDF). Bell Labs. Retrieved 9 January 2019.