ho

1
[ hoh ]
/ hoʊ /

interjection

(used as a call to attract attention, sometimes specially used after a word denoting a destination): Westward ho! Land ho!
(used as an exclamation of surprise or delight.)

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Origin of ho

1
Middle English word dating back to 1250–1300

Definition for ho (2 of 7)

ho2
[ hoh ]
/ hoʊ /

interjection

(used as a command to a horse to stop.)

Origin of ho

2
1300–50; Middle English <Old French. See whoa

Definition for ho (3 of 7)

ho3

or hoe

[ hoh ]
/ hoʊ /

noun, plural hos, hoes, ho's.Slang: Disparaging and Offensive.

a sexually promiscuous woman.
a prostitute; whore.
a woman.

Origin of ho

3
First recorded in 1965–70; dialectal or African American Vernacular English pronunciation of whore

Definition for ho (4 of 7)

Ho

Symbol, Chemistry.

holmium.

Definition for ho (5 of 7)

HO
[ hoh ]
/ hoʊ /

noun

(in police use) habitual offender.

Definition for ho (6 of 7)

ho.

house.

Definition for ho (7 of 7)

H.O.

Head Office; Home Office.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2021

ABOUT THIS WORD

What does ho mean?

Not to be confused with hoe (the gardening tool), a ho is an offensive term for a sex worker or a promiscuous woman. Some people use the term to insult women in general while some women have reclaimed the term.

What are other forms of ho?

hoe

Where does ho come from?

The slang ho comes from a pronunciation of whore in African American Vernacular English, which can drop word-final Rs. It’s been recorded as a term for a “prostitute” since the 1950s.

In the 1960s, ho became vulgar slang for any “woman.” In the 1970s, ho added a verb form, “to prostitute oneself.” It expanded to include sexually promiscuous men in the 1980s. Come the 1990s, ho was also insulting men seen as cowardly and effeminate. As is true of many disparaging slang terms, ho was reclaimed among some speakers as a term of address in the 2000s.

In the 2000s, an unrelated ho emerged as a slang abbreviation for half-ounce, referring to a half-ounce of drugs, typically marijuana.

How is ho used in real life?

Ho is a very insulting term for a sex worker or woman (compare bitch or slut). However, like those latter two words, some women may use ho in a reappropriated, affectionate way among friends (e.g., What’s up, ho?). Here, ho might even imply a sort of sassy, sexy personality and empowered womanhood.

While ho can deride men, it’s most often used of women. When insulting men, it may be seen as more cute or playful. In hip-hop, ho is sometimes used as a generic term for a woman (e.g., bitches and hoes). We don’t recommend you go around calling just any woman a ho, however.

More examples of ho:

“You’re going to see Cardi B in a whole new light…She’s doing crazy sketches, like she has this thing called ‘Ho Etiquette’ where she does this character where she tells how do women to handle their inner ho and how to do a relationship.”

—Rip Michaels quoted by Kristin McNamara and Leah Bitsky, Page Six, August 2018

British Dictionary definitions for ho (1 of 5)

ho1
/ (həʊ) /

interjection

Also: ho-ho an imitation or representation of the sound of a deep laugh
an exclamation used to attract attention, announce a destination, etcwhat ho!; land ho!; westward ho!

Word Origin for ho

C13: of imitative origin; compare Old Norse hó, Old French ho! halt!

British Dictionary definitions for ho (2 of 5)

ho2
/ (həʊ) /

noun

US Black slang a derogatory term for a woman

Word Origin for ho

C20: from Black or Southern US pronunciation of whore

British Dictionary definitions for ho (3 of 5)

Ho

the chemical symbol for

holmium

British Dictionary definitions for ho (4 of 5)

HO

H.O.


abbreviation for

head office
British government Home Office

British Dictionary definitions for ho (5 of 5)

ho.

abbreviation for

house
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

Medical definitions for ho

Ho

The symbol for the elementholmium
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Scientific definitions for ho

Ho

The symbol for holmium.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.