10 Ways To Say Hi In English

Along with “goodbye” and “thank you”, the word “hi” is one of the first words you learn when learning a new language. Isn’t it? I mean, you may not even know anything else, but you know how to say hello. Why do we do that? Is it to be polite? Did you also know that with computer coding, usually the first word that is programmed is also hello? It’s because you’re creating something from nothing. You might as well say “hi” to it.

It’s the same way with people. You may just be in the elevator or walking down the hall, but there’s a sense of awkwardness sometimes. Perhaps your coworkers are there, but you’re not really that close to them, or maybe they’re complete strangers. The only nice thing you can think of, in order to break the awkward silence, is to say “hi”. Right? It’s what I would do too! However, did you know that English has dozens of ways to say hello? Yeah, we don’t always just say “hi”, which as you’ve learned already, is another form to say hello. Throughout the years, we have come up with many other ways to say “hi” as well. You’ve already learned two just in this introduction. Imagine what you could learn if you keep on reading the rest of this post!

Howdy

This expression, which is a popular way to say yellow, came around in the 19th century. It was derived from a very old English greeting: “How do ye?”. This kind of English greeting was popular during the mid to late 1500’s. However, like always, times change. As time past, the expression was slowly changed from “how do ye?” to “how-do”, and then eventually, somehow, we ended up with the common expression of “howdy”, which is most common in the south and western states of the U.S.

Examples:

  1. Howdy Tom, how was your day?
  2. Oh, howdy! I didn’t see you there.

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What’s up?

This phrase is an extremely common way of saying hi in English. Seriously, just go ahead and jot this phrase down because I can 100% guarantee that you will hear it again and again during your English studies. This phrase can be traced back to the early 19th century. It first started to appear in fiction as a greeting. However, before that, the phrase “what’s up” was used to refer to an event or problem that has aroused, or was “up”. Fast forward to now, in the 21st century, we have many variations of this word such as whaddup, wazzup, and whassup, but they all mean the same thing, which is simply “hi”.

Examples:

  1. What’s up? You arrived here so early!
  2. Julie! What’s up? Why were you not in class yesterday?

Long time, no see…

Hmm… I wonder how many times I have been greeted with, or even used myself, this phrase of “long time, no see”. Probably thousands of times if I really had to think about it. This phrase, however, is so grammatically incorrect and awkward. Honestly, how did something so wrong become so popular and widely acceptable in American English? Well, it’s kind of unclear how this phrase came about. In fact, its been a hot debate amongst linguists and historians for years now. However, the most common theory and etymological explanation is that this phrase is exact translation from Mandarin Chinese “haojiu bujian”, and instead of changing that phrase to make it sound more grammatically correct in English, people just translated it exactly into “long time, no see”.

Examples:

  1. Oh, Susan! You’re back! Long time, no see! How was your maternity leave?
  2. Long time no see! I heard you got married last year; congratulations!

How’s it going?

Really? How did this phrase become another way of saying hi? How is what going? Where is it going exactly? Ah, it’s so confusing if you think about it. I know many of English language learners who have asked me how this question became an acceptable greeting. Well, the only logical explanation for this is, once again, something that was misconstrued in translation. You see, the French like to say: “Ca va?”. Now, in French, just like in English, it doesn’t mean that something or someone is actually going somewhere. This question simply asks how you like is going… is it going well? Is anything new happening in your life? I guess it’s kind of like another way of asking “how are you?”. This was taken from the French, and also the Spanish I believe, and translated into English. Now, it’s a common greeting amongst English speakers all over the world.

Examples:

  1. Roy! How’s it going? I haven’t seen you all year!
  2. Man, it’s been a really long time; how’s it going?

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Nice to see you!

Ok, so the origins of this greeting are pretty hard to pinpoint, however, there is a very interesting background story behind this idiom. You see, back in the 1970’s, there was a British game show called “ The Generation Game”. The host of this game show was Sir Bruce Forsyth. This man was quite the character, and would always begin the show by saying “Nice to see you, to see you nice”. Now, this is by no means an actual phrase or greeting. Up until Bruce’s game show debut, everyone would just say “nice to see you”, but Bruce kind of re-invented this greeting, at least for people living in 1970’s UK. As you’ve probably guessed it by now. This greeting just means that it is nice for you to see that person: a pleasant surprise, if you will.

Examples:

  1. Jenny! Nice to see you! I hope you have been doing well. We should grab a coffee and catch up sometime.
  2. Nice to see you, Kevin!

Look who it is!

Ok, this one has literally no origin, I’m convinced! Okay, you got me. It has to have some kind of origin, however, no one really knows the origin of this. Some people say that it derived from the popular old British English phrase “look who it ain’t”, but who knows. I do know, however, that you should only use this word with close friends or family. It’s a pretty personal phrase, and when people say it, its often humorous. To give a rough translation, you can say that this greeting can replace the average “hi” because “look who it is” means that you recognize the person that is approaching, you know them well, and you’re happy to see them. So, instead of just saying “hi” or “hello”, you say “look who it is”.

Examples:

  1. Well, look who it is! It’s about time you got home, dinner will be ready soon!
  2. Look who it is! Wow, Amber! I haven’t seen you in ages!

Hey, boo!

This greeting is fairly new, and pretty popular amongst the younger crowd these days. The origin of this phrase is quite sweet though. Apparently, “hey, boo” is derived from the word “beau” in French. Beau means beautiful. This phrase was briefly popular back int he 18th century, but for different a different meaning. Back then, beau mean’t “male admirer”. So, “hey, beau” had a completely different connotation with it. However, nowadays, it is used when greeting an extremely close friend, or someone of which you’re in a relationship with (i.e. boyfriend/ girlfriend).

Examples:

  1. Hey, boo… Could you feed the kids for me; I’m late for work. Thank you!
  2. Hey, boo! Do you want to hang out on Saturday? I really want to go shopping!

Good morning/ afternoon/ evening

Now, these greetings I’m pretty sure you may already know. However, just to be clear, and since they are so very common, I believe they deserve their own mention here on this blog post. By now, you’re probably thinking there’s a million ways to say “hi” how can you learn them all? Well, there’s only about fifty, I’d say, and you don’t need to learn them all because once you know a certain amount of English, the rest will kind of just “click” and you will begin to understand things on the spot without even any prior knowledge of the phrase. Anyway, back to these greetings though: good morning, good afternoon, and good evening. These phrases are basic English knowledge right? Everyone who is anyone is taught these greetings almost immediately after they embark on their English study. Good morning being used in replacement of “hello” during the morning, “good afternoon” during the afternoon, and of course, “good evening” is used in the evening time. Simple, right?

Examples:

  1. Good morning! How’d you sleep?
  2. Good afternoon class, did you all finish your homework?

Hey…

This greeting can be traced back to Middle English, but is not a natural expression that is used amongst dozens of languages, and not only English! This greeting is short and sweet, but sometimes, if used in an stern tone, can be demanding and can attract attention. For the most part, however, this word is second to “hi” in the popularity ranking though. Extremely common, and I’m sure you have already heard it hundreds of times while on your English journey.

Examples:

  1. Hey Jess, where are you going?
  2. Hey, did you buy your wedding dress yet?

Hi there!

Shockingly enough, the word “hi” preceded the word “hello”. I will let that sink in. The world “hi” was actually around before the word “hello”, and the phrase “hi there” was first recoded in the year 1475! “Hello”, on the other hand, didn’t come into play until the mid 1800’s! Isn’t that crazy? So, “hi there” is another popular greeting, but the only one on this list that is actually older than the word “hello” itself.

Examples:

  1. Hi there! Did you happen to by the movie tickets?
  2. Dan! Hi there! It’s nice to meet you.

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