In an episode of Today I Found Out, host Simon Whistler reveals why “Ahoy hoy” was once the preferred phrase for answering the telephone and how “Hello” came to usurp it.
The very brief popularity of this telephone greeting stemmed from the fact the “ahoy-hoy” was Alexander Graham Bell’s preferred way to answer the phone. Ahoy-hoy derives from the term “ahoy”, which is generally associated with being a nautical term used for hailing ships. However, there is also significant evidence that it was popularly used as a way to more or less say “hello” in non-nautical situations. Further, “hoy” was commonly used as far back as the 14th century as a call to use while driving cattle. This precedes the first known instance of it being used in the nautical sense, attached with a leading ‘a’ sound (“a-hoy”).