(used as an exclamation to call attention or to express pleasure, surprise, bewilderment, etc.)
Informal. hello: used as a greeting.

Origin of hey

1150–1200; Middle English hei
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for hey

Contemporary Examples of hey

Historical Examples of hey

  • Hey, Scottie, shake up the fire and put on some coffee, will you?

  • The night now was very dark, "with hey, ho, the wind and the rain!"

    Weighed and Wanting

    George MacDonald

  • It used to be "Rose," but now it was always "say" or "you" or "hey."


    Mr. and Mrs. Haldeman-Julius

  • That's why he was so hot about picking a fight on the boat, hey?

    The Black Bag

    Louis Joseph Vance

  • What do you suppose one-legged men're going to do in the resurrection, hey, Abe?

British Dictionary definitions for hey



an expression indicating surprise, dismay, discovery, etc, or calling for another's attention
Southern African an exclamation used for emphasis at the end of a statement, or alone to seek repetition or confirmation of another person's statement
hey presto an exclamation used by conjurors to herald the climax of a trick

Word Origin for hey

C13: compare Old French hay, German hei, Swedish hej
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for hey

c.1200, variously, in Middle English, hei, hai, ai, he, heh, expressing challenge, rebuttal, anger, derision, sorrow, or concern; also a shout of encouragement to hunting dogs. Possibly a natural expression (cf. Roman eho, Greek eia, German hei).

Þa onswerede þe an swiðe prudeliche, `Hei! hwuch wis read of se icudd keiser!' ["St. Katherine of Alexandria," c.1200]

In Latin, hei was a cry of grief or fear; but heia, eia was an interjection denoting joy.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper