How Did Hello Become a Greeting?

The word "hello" did not become a common greeting in the English language until after the invention of the telephone in 1877, when American inventor Thomas Edison is thought to have suggested the word as a greeting when picking up the phone. The actual inventor of the telephone, Alexander Graham Bell, reportedly wanted “ahoy” to be the standard greeting when answering the phone. The exact origins of the word "hello" are not known, but it is believed to have first appeared in a published work in 1827. Before the invention of the telephone, the word "hello" typically was used to catch a person’s attention rather than as a greeting.

More about telephone greetings:

  • In Russia, people often don’t answer the phone with a greeting and instead wait in silence for the caller to say something first.
  • The first telephone book was published by the District Telephone Company of New Haven, Connecticut in 1878 and included instructions for answering the phone with the "hello" greeting.
  • Germans typically greet callers on the phone by simply stating their last names.
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