Early mix

As the new ahoj (ahoi in German) was gaining frequency in 19th-century literature and started to enter popular culture, it was occasionally cited in unexpected functions, perhaps conflated with existing words – a Czech author quoted it as a coach drivers' call in 1883.


By coincidence, the writer Svetozár Hurban–Vajanský (1847-1916) described a Slovak count as saying čau to an approaching person in 1884, three generations before čau set off to become a common informal greeting in Slovakia.



Web designer Martin Balha picked ahoj and the Slovak nickname for John to showcase his style.





When actually used to greet someone, the word ahoj is commonly stressed on the last syllable.


Slovak words are stressed on the first syllable, regionally on the penultimate syllable, not on the final one. Greetings, however, are sometimes uttered with a rising intonation and an overemphasized last syllable, dobrý-DEŇ! This has become quite frequent with ahoj when voiced as a greeting.



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The greeting ahoj

Q: What is the history of ahoj?

Ahoj [ah-HOY or AH-hoy] was most frequent among the Slovaks addressing each other informally in the 1960s-1990s. It gained currency over the earlier greeting servus and has been gradually making room for čau. Ahoj is used both when people meet and when they part, often in the phrase tak ahoj in the latter instance. Unlike the American hi, it cannot be used to greet people who are addressed by their last names, which includes all adult strangers. The standard greetings in those situations are dobrý deň (meet) and dovidenia (part).

The word ahoj entered Central Europe with the English phrase ship ahoy through German literature (spelled ahoi) in the early 19th century. It came to be associated with rowing clubs by the end of that century and was picked up by outdoors groups in Bohemia in the 1910s-1920s. Ahoj then entered the media and mass culture in Czechoslovakia in the 1930s. It had become widespread as an informal greeting in Slovakia by the 1960s.

From literature to literature

The call ahoy occurred several times in The Red Rover by J. F. Cooper translated to German in 1828, the same year it was printed in English. The translation was republished throughout the century, and the word, especially in the phrase ship ahoy, also began to occur in novels coming out in German about Danish, Dutch, and other sailors, in more translations from English, as well as in travelogues. The spelling ahoj first occurred in the same phrase in the 1855 Czech translation of the glee "The Meeting of the Ships" by Thomas Moore.

From literature to rowing

The literary association of ahoj with ships transferred to its association with boats in rowing clubs in mostly landlocked Central Europe by the 1880s, it had become an insider word and greeting among its members. There also were sporadic occurrences of the word in popular culture, e.g., in a tune in Berlin in the 1860s with its lyrics published and distributed even in the U.S., or in the title of a quadrille in the 1880s (whose performance in Mělník was condemned as un-Czech by an ethnic activist).

Post-World War I spread

Ahoj expanded its use as an identifier from rowing clubs to emerging less formal canoeing, camping, and outdoors groups in Prague in the first decades of the 20th century and soon began to shift towards a generalized informal greeting. A popular play with a substantial theater run in Prague was subtitled "Ahoj for Sunday" in the late 1920s, and the greeting received a strong push in Czechoslovakia when the whole phrase was adopted as the name of a Czech picture-story-news weekly with a good circulation that lasted a full decade, which spread the recognition and use of ahoj. It began to occur in films, including in the Popeye the Sailor cartoons (one actually titled Bridge Ahoy in 1936) and strips. The outdoors magazine Ahoj appeared for a time, the word was briefly part of a record label targeting the same audience, the frequency of its use as an informal greeting increased in literature.

Informal greeting

The tentative status of ahoj as an informal greeting solidified in Slovakia after World War II when the Czech-speaking part of Czechoslovakia was joined to it again. Slovak developed its modified version ahojte used optionally to greet a group of people, which subsequently transferred, with a more limited frequency, to Czech.