Why do we say hello to answer the phone?


The term ‘hello’ was first used by Thomas Edison to answer the phone. It then became the standard for answering calls.

We have all grown up saying hello on the phone. It is literally the first word out of most people’s mouth when they pick up the phone. I bet you do it as well, and you don’t even think about it. It is just instinctive, hello is what you say when you pick up the phone.

According to Oxford Dictionaries, the term came into usage in the late 19th century, while other sources putting its emergence at 1827. It was actually a variation of English greeting ‘hullo.’ This was years before the telephone was invented by Alexander Graham Bell, which happened in 1876.

At the time that Bell invented the telephone, the term hello was being used as a word to garner attention such as, “Hello, what are you doing?” or “Hello, who is there?” In fact, hello was not even in the forerunner to be used as a greeting over the phone, or even a greeting at all.

The use of hello was actually accidental and by Thomas Alva Edison nonetheless. As the story goes, Thomas Edison mistakenly heard a person say ‘hullo’ on the phone, he naturally responded with ‘hello’. Hence, hello has been used since. Of course, reality is not exactly that simple. However, the basis of the story is true, Thomas Edison offered and used ‘hello’ as a standard greeting when using the telephone. He actually offered the term as there was a need for a greeting that allowed a person to get the attention of the person on the other line. At the time, telephones were an open line, which means that phones were always connect, one just had to pick up the phone and start talking. As the usage of telephones grew, telephone exchanges came into place, where ‘hello-girls’ or operators would connect one telephone line to another. While this may have changed over the years, the usage of hello has stuck around.