I can't translate that sentence, “hail to the king”. I've found something like “greetings to the king” but is this correct?
Nowadays, among it's meanings it has this one:
[trans.]call out to (someone) to attract attention: the crew hailed a fishing boat.
2. signal (an approaching taxicab) to stop: she raised her hand to hail a cab.
The Archaic usage is signalled as follows:
- exclamation archaic
expressing greeting or acclaim: "hail, Caesar!"
Considering this, we can say that "Hail to the King!" can be both a way to express acclaim, praise to the King and express greeting.
But we even might be able to say that it can be both together. Deciding which one of these is the correct meaning depends on the context, as it usually happens with words with different acceptions.
The Etymology is this one:
ORIGIN Middle English: from the obsolete adjective hail
[healthy](occurring in greetings and toasts, such as wæs hæil: see wassail ), from Old Norse heill.
which is related (it surprised me a bit) with Whole and its etymology:
ORIGIN Old English hāl, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch heel and German heil, also to hail (
the quote I pasted above this one). The spelling with wh- (reflecting a dialect pronunciation with w-) first appeared in the 15th cent.
You need only look up the definition of hail:
- to cheer, salute, or greet; welcome.
- to acclaim; approve enthusiastically: The crowds hailed the conquerors. They hailed the recent advances in medicine.
- to call out to in order to stop, attract attention, ask aid, etc.: to hail a cab.
In this case, the second definition is most appropriate, although the first may apply as well.
Perhaps the "to" in "hail to the king" is confusing you though -- hail can also serve as a noun denoting the act of hailing, so there's an implicit imperative here: "give your hail to the king."