English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

This is more a historical question than one on the usages themselves. I'm interested in the history of the truncated forms of "Good morning" and "Good evening..." specifically, when people started greeting one other simply with 'morning', 'afternoon, and 'evening', why they did so, and even where they were first used. I would presume it was due to laziness, but details are always helpful... and, of course, I would appreciate some citation, as confirmation is never a bad thing.

share|improve this question

closed as not constructive by FumbleFingers, tchrist, Kristina Lopez, MετάEd, cornbread ninja 麵包忍者 Mar 8 '13 at 15:45

As it currently stands, this question is not a good fit for our Q&A format. We expect answers to be supported by facts, references, or expertise, but this question will likely solicit debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion. If you feel that this question can be improved and possibly reopened, visit the help center for guidance.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

I guess you have done some research yourself. What did you find? (It saves anyone else repeating what you did and re-stating what you already know) – Andrew Leach Mar 6 '13 at 21:16
Unfortunately, very little. I started with the claim that they were used American greetings that started being used when politeness declined and only within the last 50 years or so... which seemed off, given that I've heard it used more frequently when visiting the U.K. than I have in the U.S. The closest library didn't seem to have much on this, possibly due to misused search terms... I'm not quite sure what topic it would fall under. However, I'm likewise somewhat sceptical that it is a recent thing, as language constantly seems to drop unnecessary words and letters. – Quicksilver Mar 6 '13 at 21:31
Don't discount the influence from German "guten morgen, gute nacht". – Blessed Geek Mar 7 '13 at 1:40
The question could be better formulated, but I think it's a legitimate question requiring some edit. – Danubian Sailor Oct 14 '13 at 11:46

"Morning" appears in print as a salutation, in the shortened form you mention, at least as early as the 1800s. Here are three examples.

From "Educational Quacks; or The Puffing System in Education" in The Educational Magazine (1838):

We came away without asking for Mr. Thwackum, and should not have seen him had he not accidentally come to the back door, to cheapen a bushel of carrots and a sack of potatoes which a poor fellow in a cart was making a grand uproar about, sufficient to disturb the whole neighbourhood.

"Good morning, Mr. Thwackum," said we.

"Morning, Sir — morning, Sir," said the old man; a short dumpty little figure of about fifty years of age. He had got his cane under his arm, his pen over his ear, and his spectacles above his nose; his feet were in slippers, and his stockings fell in graceful wrinkles about the calves of his legs.

From The Working Man's Friend, and Family Instructor (October 23, 1852):

Well, good-morning, Miss Silence," said Uncle Jaw, after having scraped his feet on the scraper, and scrubbed them on the mat nearly ten minutes in silent deliberation.

"Morning, sir," said Silence, abbreviating the "good."

From Charles Dickens, Our Mutual Friend (1867):

"Here you are again," repeated Mr Wegg, musing. "And what are you now? Are you in the Funns, or where are you? Have you lately come to settle in this neighbourhood, or do you own to another neighbourhood? Are you in independent circumstances, or is it wasting the motions of a bow on you? Come! I'll speculate! I'll invest a bow in you."

Which Mr Wegg, having replaced his tin box, accordingly did, as he rose to bait his gingerbread-trap for some other devoted infant. The salute was acknowledged with:

"Morning, sir! Morning! Morning!"

("Calls me Sir!" said Mr Wegg, to himself; "HE won't answer. A bow gone!")

"Morning, morning, morning!"

"Appears to be rather a 'arty old cock, too," said Mr Wegg, as before; "Good morning to YOU, sir."

It's worth noting that "Good morning" is itself an abbreviated form of "I wish you a good morning," which conveys the meaning "I wish that you may have a good morning."

The earliest occurrence of "Evening, sir" (without the "Good") that I could find in a Google search is from a play by Henry Arthur Jones called The Chevaleer (1904):

Abel. Let us evermore bear them in mind for to be a warning unto us; and especially unto you. [Digging his finger pointedly at CHARLIE.] And especially unto her! Let us evermore strive to act so as to prevent ourselves from carrying on like the guilty parties—[the steam-organ outside gives one long groan]—like the guilty parties now before us; and also from walking in their footsteps, which before now have proved to be the ruin of thousands, and which if not rooted up in the bud, may one day prove to be the ruin of many here, likewise the ruin of you. [Digging his finger at CHARLIE.] And likewise the ruin of her! [Digging his finger at LADY ANNE.] Tchevaleer, I have done my duty towards the proud ones of the earth. Evening. Evening, Sir John, evening my lady; evening, sir.

share|improve this answer

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.