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


  1. an expression indicating surprise, dismay, discovery, etc, or calling for another’s attention
  2. 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
  3. hey presto an exclamation used by conjurors to herald the climax of a trick

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.

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