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


  • IPA(key): /əˈhɔɪ/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ɔɪ



  1. (nautical) Used to hail a ship, a boat or a person, or to attract attention.
    • 1751, Tobias Smollett, The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle:
      While he was thus occupied, a voice, still more uncouth than the former, bawled aloud, ‘Ho! the house, a-hoy!’
    • 1913, Joseph C. Lincoln, chapter 7, in Mr. Pratt's Patients[1]:
      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.
  2. (humorous) Warning of something approaching or impending.
    • 1989, Forbes, volume 143, numbers 5-7, page 74:
      Lawsuits, ahoy! [] Towns can regulate use of their beaches. But what about the waters offshore?
    • 1992, Championship Run (video game review) in Your Sinclair issue 75, page 61
      Catalytic converters ahoy – Zeppelin's latest is one of those high-rev 3D driving games that simulates racing tracks from all over the world.

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]


  • Czech: ahoj
  • Danish: ohøj
  • Dutch: ahoi
  • German: ahoi
  • Slovak: ahoj



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]