The word hello was not a greeting phrase before the phone was invented

The creation of the phone has changed our way of life, in many ways. Everything from being able to globalize the way we do business, to today, we having almost all the world’s knowledge available on our cell phones.

The phone has also affected what words we use. When texting became common, we started shortening words to get the maximum out of messages. The word “hello” has also been influenced by the phone. “Hello” was not a greeting phrase before the telephone was invented.

The word was coined 1827

The Oxford English Dictionary did not publish the word “hello” until 1827. At that time, the word was not a greeting phrase in that sense, but was more a way of getting attention. For example “Hello, what do you think you’re doing ?!”. They also used “hello” to express surprise.

In the beginning the word Ahoy was used

When the phone was invented, you needed a way to clarify that you had answered the incoming call. Graham Bell, the father of the telephone, thought “ahoy” was the right greeting phrase when answering the phone. He was so firm in his decision that he himself answered with “ahoy” all his life.

The word “ahoy” has been around for about 100 years longer than “hello”. In the beginning, “ahoy” was a greeting phrase used at sea and came from the Dutch “hoi”, which means hello.

Soluno’s own reseller partner portal is also usually called Ahoy.

For those of you who have seen the cartoon series The Simpsons, you may have noticed that Mr. Burns also uses “ahoy” when answering the phone.


Graham Bell’s rival, Thomas Edison, was instead the one who called on phone users to respond with “hello”.

Why did ”hello” become a standard?

So if the telephone’s creator, Graham Bell, stuck to “ahoy” all his life, how did “hello” become the norm? According to Ammon Shea, author of The Phone Book: The Curios History of the Book That Everyone Uses But No One Reads, the word “hello” won because of the first phone book. The first parts of the phonebook contained quite authoritative How-To pages that explained how to use the phone and make phone calls. There it was said that one would answer with a “firm and cheery hello”.

The closing phrase did not become as popular

Since then, “hello” has gained ground and today we do not question why we use the word when we meet or call someone. However, the phone book’s recommendation for ending calls was not as popular. According to the first phone book, all calls should end with “that is all”.

Today we often take the phone and its wonderful opportunities for granted. It is easy to forget what monumental influence the invention has had in the way we live today.

That is all.

By Elin Gunnarsson
Content Manager
In a time of "it must happen now" it is of the utmost importance to have the right communication solutions.

One response to “The word hello was not a greeting phrase before the phone was invented

  1. So interesting and funny! I always thought mr burns saying ahoy was a sea going thing ????

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.