5

Who remembers when and how "Alright?" became a greeting in UK English?

Do you remember the first time you heard it? Can you remember when that was? What was the context? Was there a particular celebrity or TV show that made it so popular?

20
  • 1
    Alright or all right (UK, informal) Generic greeting. "All right" apparently comes from a question (i.e. "are you all right?", "are things all right?") so it seems like more of a synonym for how are you. Then again, a response is often not expected.
    – user66974
    Commented May 3, 2015 at 18:43
  • 1
    @Dan Bron 'All right' certainly is: all right exclamation (GREETING) › UK informal: used to greet someone at the same time as asking if they are well: "All right, John?" "Not bad thanks, and you?" [Cambridge Dictionaries Online] Commented May 3, 2015 at 19:05
  • 1
    ... See John Lawler's answer at Meaning of 'just about everybody else has' in this context/. Commented May 3, 2015 at 19:30
  • 2
    @Josh61 Good point, I should clarify my question.
    – Sun Jul
    Commented May 3, 2015 at 19:48
  • 1
    @Dan Bron - Thank you. Sometimes I do greet and reply with a variation of "alright." I love the poetry and creativity of the nuance and surprises of English hybrids, tribal/clan patois, and especially the African-American ebonics. Especially the politically subversive nature of much of it. In many respects these incredibly resilient peoples figured out that their freedom and survival depended on making the spoken-tongue their tongue
    – user98990
    Commented May 4, 2015 at 2:03

3 Answers 3

2

I've been living out of the UK for 8 years and was baffled when I returned recently to find shop assistants asking me if I was alright. Oddly in a northern accent, even here in the south - "Ya alright?" The first time this happened I answered,"I'm fine" and they turned away and served someone else - so that's not the right answer! I never heard it when I used to live in UK and still have no idea how to respond. I assumed it was a northern expression popularized by soaps such as Coronation Street.

3
  • Coronation Street is a great tip! I'll bet it documents precisely the point at which alright?-as-greeting popped into the language.
    – Sun Jul
    Commented Oct 1, 2015 at 0:59
  • @SunJul Is that sarcasm?
    – Angelos
    Commented Jul 23, 2016 at 13:27
  • I don't really follow British TV but have heard it on Extras, which went on air in 2005. That is just a short time before you left.
    – vectory
    Commented Nov 5, 2023 at 10:36
1

Alright or all right (UK, informal) Generic greeting. "All right" apparently comes from a question (i.e. "are you all right?", "are things all right?") so it seems like more of a synonym for how are you. Then again, a response is often not expected. –

All right used as a greeting: ‘hello’, ‘how are you?’ appears to have a quite old origin. OED cites a usage as early as 1868:

  • 1868 D. M. Mulock in Good Words June 335/2 William's first greeting at his own door was always his wife's face... ‘All right, my darling?’
  • 1943 R. Sullivan Dark Continent v. 41 ‘Awright, pal!’ the bartender called to him. ‘What'll it be?’
  • 1989 Financial Times 20 May (Weekend Suppl.) p. xxiii/1 She looked this imposing gentleman straight in the eye..and said: ‘Alright, mate?’
  • 2004 C. Bateman Driving Big Davie xii. 117 He came up, smiling. ‘All right? I was looking for you.’

From (www.effingpot.com/slang)

  • All right? - This is used a lot around London and the south to mean, "Hello, how are you"? You would say it to a complete stranger or someone you knew. The normal response would be for them to say "All right"? back to you. It is said as a question. Sometimes it might get expanded to "all right mate"? Mostly used by blue collar workers but also common among younger people.

A note on British vs American usage:

Alright, mate:

  • This affectionate phrase can leave some Americans feeling slightly paranoid, as they might perceive alright, mate! to be a question, rather than a casual greeting. In other words, saying alright, mate! to an American tourist might lead them to think you're asking them if they're feeling okay. Oddly enough, the American equivalent of this phrase is what's up, dude!, which conversely leaves us Brits feeling paranoid for much the same reason. Alright, mate! = what's up, dude!
5
  • Nice! I've never heard this in the US. Is it common all over UK? Do Aussies/Kiwis use it?
    – Mitch
    Commented May 4, 2015 at 2:24
  • @Mitch - av far as I know it is a UK expression. Our friends from Australia and New Zealand might help us with this issue.
    – user66974
    Commented May 4, 2015 at 6:30
  • 1
    Interesting. So, while its current ubiquity in the UK may be recent, it has apparently been lurking in the language for a long time.
    – Sun Jul
    Commented May 4, 2015 at 14:14
  • When I spent several months in London in 2003, I don't think I ever heard "Alright?" as a greeting. (It sounds so odd to an American I am sure I would have noticed it.) When I was back in London for a short trip in 2013, it seems like I heard it everywhere -- even the lady at the airline ticket counter greeted customers with "Alright?" So what was it that happened in those 10 years that made "Alright?" such a popular way to say "Hello" in UK English?
    – Sun Jul
    Commented May 4, 2015 at 14:25
  • @SunJul -probably from TV Tropes: Used irreverently as a greeting towards women, "All right Darlin'?" tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/StockBritishPhrases
    – user66974
    Commented May 4, 2015 at 14:33
0

Though I am unable to supply a date, the origins of “alright,” in the OP’s sense, lie in African-American/Brit Vernacular English (aka: ebonics). “Alright,” or any of its variations have significant currency in urban minority and hip white communities, and prison/jail populations. Examining the origin and meaning of this word is not simple as there are numerous articulations that share subtle commonalities and differences, based upon context, most notably in the Jamaican patois. Here are a few (from the U.S.).

alright = awright = aight = aite = Irie

  1. Used to indicate acknowledgement or acceptance; OK
  2. Generic greeting or response to greeting.

Urban Dictionary:

08) Instead of saying "hello" or "hi" anymore, some socially hip people decided to use "Alright" accompanied by the famous "sup" nod as a way of communicating to lesser mortals.

Some people think that when someone says "Alright?" to them, they should respond with how they are. Do not do this. You will be exposed as an uneducated idiot.

11) A common greeting, and response to a greeting, in the New Orleans, Louisiana area. Can be used interchangeably with other common greetings, such as where y'at and what it is. Often heard from passers-by on the street. All versions and variations found in The Urban Dictionary

IRIE (Jamaican/Rastafarian): good, fine, okay, hi, happy, pleasant, high, alright; Irie and Irie

Whether with or without complete knowledge of its esoteric interpretations, this expression can be used as a greeting or response alternative for hello, all right, good, fine, I’m alright, etc. However, on deeper level its origins are far more spiritual.

Irie is a Jamaican noun meaning good, excellent, great and good quality. Rastafarian “I-dren” (brethren) have their own language and one word that you will hear frequently is “Irie.” Rastafaris developed their own version of the Jamaican dialect in which “I” is a frequent prefix. For example “I and I” or “I-man” meaning (RELATIONSHIP) I or myself and “I-dren” meaning children or brethren.

• “I and I” simultaneously means (1) you and I (2) the Great Spirit or All That Is. Use as you would ‘I’ but carries the additional "flavor" of a radical-inclusivity.

• “Ites” means the heights of "I and I."

• “Irie” is an adjective form of “Ites,” meaning the same thing.

• “Yes I” is a Rasta term meaning "positive vibration."

Rastas also believe in the concept of "One Love" meaning, everyone should have the same love for everything, i.e., yourself, family, humans, animals, nature, etc. This concept and belief ties in very closely with the concept of "I and I" because it once again stresses the evils of its contrast, i.e., separation.

"I" as prefix also makes any word become more spiritual and sacred. "Irie" is a great example of this, because "Irie" is the ultimate positive.

Antonym: Hurtin (ebonic spelling), English "hurting" meaning, in need of something, i.e., "He is hurtin" (in need of relief) from some type of physical, emotional, spiritual separation, deprivation of well-being, or "pain."

While I have had difficulty authoritatively documenting some of what I assert, due to either or both a paucity of documentation or my rudimentary computer-skills, all that I have chosen to include here is based upon personal experience.

2
  • If you live in Britain and are over, say, 50 years old, is it your impression that the greeting "All right?" is fairly recent? Or is it something that you've been hearing all your life?
    – Sun Jul
    Commented May 4, 2015 at 14:10
  • Sorry, Sun Jul, I can't speak to that as I'm kind of stuck in the U.S. But here, "alright" as greeting/acknowledgment/blessing is frequently heard in those particular communities I've mentioned. Because this expression emerges from a primarily oral tradition, fixing a specific date for origination is well nigh impossible. Dates for this usage's occurrence in literature are inevitably after the expression has been in popular usage for some indeterminate period of time. +1 for the question, though!
    – user98990
    Commented May 4, 2015 at 17:10

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