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Hail Fellow Well Met

Posted by R. Berg on May 31, 2001

In Reply to: Hail Fellow Well Met posted by Jules Brown on May 31, 2001

: I am looking for the meaning of the phrase, "Hail fellow well met"

: Thanks

It started as a familiar greeting, a modern equivalent being "Hey, man, good to see you." The Oxford Engl. Dict. gives a quotation for this use from 1589. It must have been a common greeting earlier than that, though, because quotations for its derivative meanings have dates from 1580 on.

For "hail-fellow" the OED has "On such terms, or using such freedom with another, as to accost him with 'hail, fellow!'; on a most intimate footing; over familiar or unduly intimate." Example from 1688: "Let not your Servants be over-familiar or haile fellow with you."
Also "So the fuller phrase 'Hail fellow well met.'" Example from 1642: "Gentlemen will be haile fellow well met with Jesters."
And, in adverbial use, "On most intimate terms." Example from 1771: "You see the highest quality and the lowest trades-folk jostling each other, without ceremony, hail-fellow well met."