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?

  • 2
    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
    Commented Dec 8, 2010 at 3:16
  • 1
    I always thought "Ta" and "Ta ta" meant good-bye.
    – oosterwal
    Commented Mar 21, 2011 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
    Commented Sep 18, 2011 at 12:51
  • Do you have a source for this possibly?
    – user10893
    Commented Sep 19, 2011 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
    Commented Nov 1, 2012 at 3:14

5 Answers 5


Online Etymology Dictionary says:

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

Although possibly originating from the imitative of baby talk, this is in widespread use in the North of England and Wales as an informal "thanks" amongst adults.

American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language says:

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

  • Small children in England are sometimes reminded by their elders to say "tata". I've never heard adults using the double version.
    – TRiG
    Commented Dec 12, 2010 at 20:54
  • 17
    I've only ever heard 'tata' used as a substitute for goodbye - never as thanks (or ta).
    – HorusKol
    Commented Jan 17, 2011 at 2:21
  • 16
    Obviously written by a southerner. Ta is the normal form of thanks in Northern England
    – mgb
    Commented May 12, 2011 at 0:53
  • 6
    Ta is also pretty standard in Wales
    – Ina
    Commented Jun 26, 2012 at 14:01
  • 12
    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
    Commented Dec 10, 2012 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).


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.

  • 5
    "I am momentarily unable to locate the magnifying glass that came with the tome" +1 funny.
    – Golden Cuy
    Commented Dec 18, 2012 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".

  • 1
    This is a famous false etymology of "Ta" (AFAIK). Commented Nov 25, 2010 at 20:18
  • Proven by whom?
    – glenatron
    Commented Nov 25, 2010 at 20:38
  • 3
    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. Commented Dec 8, 2010 at 5:00
  • 3
    @ShreevatsaR doesn't a burden of proof also rest on the person claiming that this is a) a famous and b) a false etymology? If it's famously false it should be easy to find a source corroborating? As an aside, it's not reasonable to contradict someone then demand they provide proof while not providing any proof of your opposing position, unless there's a strong reason to think that one position is more authoritative than the other (and I don't think either is here).
    – frankster
    Commented Sep 11, 2020 at 0:29
  • 2
    @ShreevatsaR when you talk about an early trace in English, it is important to be aware of who was doing the recording - the northern working class were not traditionally a highly literate demographic and the further back we go the more formal, and less colloquial, writing tends to be. The etymology dictionaries are all that we can currently prove, but it is unusual and lucky to get much in the written record regarding regional spoken language.
    – glenatron
    Commented Sep 11, 2020 at 9:51

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.

  • North of England, chatrooms, and Scrabble players (for whom 2-letter words are valuaable).
    – GEdgar
    Commented Feb 22, 2018 at 14:40

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.

  • 8
    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
    Commented Dec 19, 2011 at 21:56

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