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Where does the expression "ta" come from?

Wikipedia has only this to say:

"ta!", slang, Exclam. Thank you! {Informal}, an expression of gratitude

but no additional information or links about its genesis.

I have only ever heard it from englishmen and -women. Is it used anywhere else in the world? How did it come about? What is its history?

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I have heard it used many times in Autralia. I also use it frequently. On occasion, I have received blank stares from non native-english speakers when I use it. –  dave Dec 8 '10 at 3:16
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I always thought "Ta" and "Ta ta" meant good-bye. –  oosterwal Mar 21 '11 at 21:13
    
It may be possible that "ta", a commonly used way of saying thank you derives from the Scots Gaelic, tapadh leibh (TAH-puh LEH-eev), for thank you. –  user13112 Sep 18 '11 at 12:51
    
Do you have a source for this possibly? –  simchona Sep 19 '11 at 1:33
    
It's also used by some Australians, confusing other Australians who don't use it. Unfortunately, I don't have any more detailed data on use-by-region than that. –  user867 Nov 1 '12 at 3:14

5 Answers 5

up vote 9 down vote accepted

Online Etymology Dictionary says:

ta: 1772, "natural infantile sound of gratitude" [Weekley].

So it is most probably the imitative of baby talk.

American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language says:

ta: Chiefly British
Used to express thanks.
ETYMOLOGY:
Baby-talk alteration of "thank you".

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Small children in England are sometimes reminded by their elders to say "tata". I've never heard adults using the double version. –  TRiG Dec 12 '10 at 20:54
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I've only ever heard 'tata' used as a substitute for goodbye - never as thanks (or ta). –  HorusKol Jan 17 '11 at 2:21
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Obviously written by a southerner. Ta is the normal form of thanks in Northern England –  mgb May 12 '11 at 0:53
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Ta is also pretty standard in Wales –  Ina Jun 26 '12 at 14:01
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I'm sorry but I can't "buy" this etymology at all. "Ta ta" also gets written off as baby talk. If you spend a few weeks in the north of England, you'd quickly realize that "ta" has nothing to do with babies. –  Ian Atkin Dec 10 '12 at 6:59

My compact version of The Oxford English Dictionary lists it as "An infantile word expressing thanks," and dates its first reference from 1772, unless my eyes deceive me (I am momentarily unable to locate the magnifying glass that came with the tome).

Edit:

Thank god for Eric Partridge. He quotes the same OED reference, only in larger type. Here is the entry:

Ta!; rarely taa! Thanks!: coll., orig. and mainly nursery: 1772, Mrs Delany, 'You would not say "ta" to me for my congratulation,' O.E.D. Ex a young child's difficulty with th and nks.

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"I am momentarily unable to locate the magnifying glass that came with the tome" +1 funny. –  Andrew Grimm Dec 18 '12 at 13:48

When a term originates in northern English dialects as "ta" appears to, I often begin by looking at nordic languages as much of northern England was conquered by the Vikings and the parts of the language endure both in words and in the overall sound - if you listen the geordie accent has a definite scandinavian cadence to it.

Looking at modern Danish and Norwegian we see that "Thanks" translates as "Tak" or "Takk" respectively, so it seems to me quite plausible that this provides an origin for "Ta".

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This is a famous false etymology of "Ta" (AFAIK). –  ShreevatsaR Nov 25 '10 at 20:18
    
Proven by whom? –  glenatron Nov 25 '10 at 20:38
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The burden of proof is on the one claiming an explanation to be true. :-) The fact that etymological dictionaries don't list this Viking hypothesis is enough, for now. –  ShreevatsaR Dec 8 '10 at 5:00
    
Right! I shall use my considerable knowledge of norse languages ( specifically none ) and the considerable libraries at my disposal ( specifically I think there is one somewhere in town, but it only has a few paperbacks ) to prove it directly! –  glenatron Dec 9 '10 at 16:35
    
+1. Very probable explanation. For the words of the baby/kid talk dictionary are very old. The only older group of names are probably the names of the rivers –  Gangnus Oct 2 '13 at 16:34

I would have said it was just a shortening of "thanks". It was in common use in the days of my youth in Northern England.

It's also used as an abbreviation for "thanks" in internet chat rooms.

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As an Australian I can say 'ta' is used extensively in Australia. I can't comment on other explanatios as I am not a language expert. However I would like to suggest, as that many caucasian Australians are of Celtic ancestry, that the possible origin of this word is from the Irish galic word for 'yes' (tá). If you think of 'yes' in a broader context; and as and an affirmative response (i.e. Yes) to an action, it kinda makes sense. Just my thoughts, any comments on this welcome.

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does not mean yes. It means is. The Celtic languages do not have distinct words for yes and no. Instead, one replies with the verb; in that context (after a question beginning an bhfuil), can mean yes. –  TRiG Dec 19 '11 at 21:56

protected by RegDwigнt Dec 18 '12 at 12:45

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