holler

1
[ hol-er ]
/ ˈhɒl ər /

verb (used without object)

to cry aloud; shout; yell: Quit hollering into the phone.

verb (used with object)

to shout or yell (something): He hollered insults back into the saloon.

noun

a loud cry used to express pain or surprise, to attract attention, to call for help, etc.

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Origin of holler

1
1690–1700, Americanism; variant of holla (see hallo)

Definition for holler (2 of 2)

holler2
[ hol-er ]
/ ˈhɒl ər /

noun South Midland and Southern U.S.

a hollow.

Origin of holler

2
An Americanism dating back to 1835–45
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2020

BEHIND THE WORD

What else does holler mean?

To holler is “to shout,” extended to “say hello” or “hit on” in Black English.

In Appalachian English, a holler refers to a “hollow,” or mountain valley.

Where does holler come from?

The verb holler is recorded in the late 17th century for “yell,” probably as a variant of words like hollo and hello—all attention-getting sounds. Early on, holler could also mean “complain,” as in Quit yer hollerin’!

By the 19th century in the U.S., slaves were performing hollers, more specifically field hollers, a type of call-and-response work song. With roots in West African music and culture, these hollers helped lay the foundation of American popular music as we know it: blues, jazz, rock and roll, all the way up to hip-hop.

These hollers may have some deep influence on the contemporary word holler (often pronounced holla) in Black and Southern English, a term for “hitting someone up” or “getting in touch.” This holler comes to prominence with the rise of hip-hop in the 1990s, when its sense expanding to “hitting on someone.”

In 1999, legendary female hip-hop trio TLC released their hit “No Scrubs,” which notably featured a catcalling holler: “Hangin’ out the passenger’s side of your best friend’s ride / trying to holla at me.”

Holler also made a pop-culture resurgence in 2004 with Gwen Stefani’s hit “Hollaback Girl.” The song is a diss track against rocker Courtney Love, who dismissed Stefani as a “cheerleader.” Stefani answered with her hook “‘Cause I ain’t no hollaback girl”—that she isn’t like some cheerleader obediently hollering back at her squad leader’s call.

Holler further spread in the 2000s as a general expression of excitement for just about anything, not just girls. For instance, one could say “Let me holler at that ice cream,” meaning “I want to get at that ice cream.” Holler! and Holla! are also issued as interjections showing enthusiasm.

In November 2015, an app called Hollar launched. It describes itself as a mobile dollar store, featuring cheap items with free shipping. The name suggests a blend of the hit-me-up holler and dollar.

And, then there’s Appalachian English, where a holler is a term for a valley between two mountains, based on the word hollow and evidenced since the 19th century. Folk etymologies like to claim, though, that the term comes from people hollering to each other over the mountains to communicate.

How is holler used in real life?

Outside of the Smoky Mountains and its general use for “shout,” holler is associated with Black and Southern English (the two share many features) as an informal way to greet, reach out to or contact someone, or acknowledge something. It’s widely seen in hip-hop, memorably featured in 2Pac’s 1993 “Holler If Ya Hear Me,” about the problems Black men faced in the hood.

Holler is also issued as an exclamation of joy, agreement, or excitement, such as winning a game or going to a party. This holler, however, does get criticized as a white appropriation of Black culture.

Note

This content is not meant to be a formal definition of this term. Rather, it is an informal summary that seeks to provide supplemental information and context important to know or keep in mind about the term’s history, meaning, and usage.

Example sentences from the Web for holler

British Dictionary definitions for holler

holler
/ (ˈhɒlə) informal /

verb

to shout or yell (something)

noun

a shout; call

Word Origin for holler

variant of C16 hollow, from holla, from French holà stop! (literally: ho there!)
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