I'm an ESL speaker and I'm not completely familiar with the underlying meaning conveyed when adding there to a greeting such as

Hello there

compared to just


(punctuation omitted for simplicity, but feel free to analyse with an exclamation mark/comma)

or with "Hi (there)".

What does there imply?

4 Answers 4


I take it to be a compression of:

Hello you over there

The idea being that I'm saying hi to you because I see you before me.

  • en.wiktionary.org/wiki/illac
    – mplungjan
    Commented Feb 3, 2014 at 8:59
  • 1
    I mainly wanted to know: what if it's used in written/virtual form? Commented Feb 3, 2014 at 9:05
  • I've heard 'Hello, you!' in a Western. It's probably seen as a friendlier version of the bald 'Hello' but still seems slightly abrupt, perhaps because of the closeness of 'Hey! You!' The 'there' is merely a hedge (a softener) that works. 'Well, hello!' and 'Why, hello!' are alternatives. The 'there' may be added to these also. Commented Feb 3, 2014 at 9:12
  • For virtual form, I would say it's saying that they just saw you appear in a chat room or are greeting their fans as if they are there. It's colloquial.
    – virmaior
    Commented Feb 3, 2014 at 9:38

Hello is an interesting word given that it has a few different overlapping sources or possible sources:

  1. hallo, hollo used to get the attention of one you wanted to come to you.
  2. holla from French holà, "whoa there!" used similarly.
  3. hollo as an exclamation to fellow hunters that one has found sought quarry, being turned to friendly informal use.

In all of these there is an implied "there": I from "here" am seeking the attention of you "there" who may not have noticed me yet, or pointing out that you are "there" to those who are already with me.

In such use of seeking someone's attention, the "there" is redundant in meaning, but not in purpose, as it lengthens the phrase enough to increase the chances of being heard.

The use as a general greeting was encouraged with the use of the telephone. In original use, it (and Bell's preferred Ahoy) was close to the original meaning because telephone's had no bell and one would instead connect the line and shout "hello" down it until someone answered. This is in keeping with the original use because one would similarly use "hello" to get someone's attention more than as a general greeting.

That said, it was becoming a general friend greeting already, found as such earlier in the 19th Century.

As hello moved into being more and more the most common friendly greeting, and eventually to one that people would use formally, the expression "hello there" remained in some people's use. Joyce for example describes O'Connell Street in Dublin (or perhaps, the experience of crossing it) as "Hello There! Central", reflecting its relative bustle and the odds that one might spot several people one knew while there, hence making "hello there" repeatedly heard.


I don't know exactly what that suppose to mean In my opinion is just a word that added up to make the way of saying hello be more active to the person you saying it to. And showing that you are ready for more of the conversation or would continue talking after saying hello. Instead of just saying "HELLO" And move on.


My knowledge states that this is an Internet-chat-based short form accepted for "Hello, are you there?" Or even "Hello, I see you're there" and similar contexts.

Driven from Internet chat, this seems to be acceptable in written form too.

  • No. Hello there dates from ancient times. If the Oxford English Dictionary is to be believed, the -lo in the ha(l)-lo is from "là" as in HO! Là - Hey, there. Anyway, I have never even noticed a "Hallo there" on an internet chat board, but then I am not a girl. "Well, hello there" sounds very slimy to my ears as in "Oh, I am surprised to meet/chat up/ a nice lady here"
    – mplungjan
    Commented Feb 3, 2014 at 10:25
  • James Joyce described O'Connell Street as "Hello There! Central" in Ulysses some time before IRC.
    – Jon Hanna
    Commented Feb 3, 2014 at 11:12

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