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From "a-hoy"; 'hoy' being a Middle English greeting dating back to the fourteenth century.[1]



  1. (nautical) Used to hail a ship, a boat or a person, or to attract attention.
    • 1751, While he was thus occupied, a voice, still more uncouth than the former, bawled aloud, ‘Ho! the house, a-hoy!’, The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle, Tobias Smollett.
    • 1913, Joseph C. Lincoln, chapter 7, in Mr. Pratt's Patients:
      I made a speaking trumpet of my hands and commenced to whoop “Ahoy!” and “Hello!” at the top of my lungs. […] The Colonel woke up, and, after asking what in brimstone was the matter, opened his mouth and roared “Hi!” and “Hello!” like the bull of Bashan.

Usage notes[edit]

  • Traditionally, when used from a ship to hail an approaching boat, the standard responses are:
    • "aye aye", if a commissioned officer is in the boat;
    • "no no", if no officer is in the boat;
    • name of ship, if the captain of another ship is in the boat;
    • "flag" if an admiral is in the boat.

Derived terms[edit]



ahoy (third-person singular simple present ahoys, present participle ahoying, simple past and past participle ahoyed)

  1. To hail with a cry of "ahoy".


ahoy (plural ahoys)

  1. An utterance of this interjection.
    There were many ahoys heard from the approaching ship.


See also[edit]