Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Hail-Fellow or Hale-Fellow?

Bill Froelich from WTCM asked about a word he encountered while reading: hail-fellow or hale-fellow. He wasn’t sure of the spelling.   

I haven’t found a definitive answer yet. There are two possibilities. First, and most probable, if it is spelled hail-fellow, it is probably a shortened version of hail-fellow-well-met, defined as an affable, outgoing person, someone easy to be with in a social situation. An example from 1688 reads, "Let not your Servants be over-familiar or haile fellow with you."

If it’s spelled hale-fellow, it would refer to a healthy person. Hale is connected to the word heal. Hale is an interesting word with several layers of meaning.
  • health, well-being
  • a nook; a secret place
  • a structure with a roof but with open sides
  • a haul of fish
  • the two handles of a plough or wheel
  • a halo

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