Oi (interjection)

Oi (interjection)

Oi (play /ˈɔɪ/) is a slang interjection used in Britain, Ireland, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia and other countries to get someone's attention or to express surprise or disapproval.[1][2] Its use is much rarer than the equivalent interjection "hey": in written British English "oi" appears at a rate of 64.3 instances per ten million words and is absent in American English, versus 294.4 for "hey" in the UK and 472.5 in the US.[3] "Oi" was added to the list of acceptable words in US Scrabble in 2006.[4]

Any time you're Lambeth way,
Any evening, any day,
You'll find us all
Doin' the Lambeth Walk. Oi!

—The opening lyrics of The Lambeth Walk

In the UK, the word is associated with working class and Cockney stereotypes.[5] A survey of Cockney language in the 1950s found that whether it was being used to call attention or as a challenge depended on its tone and abruptness. The author noted that "The ejaculation, jaunty and self-assertive, is intensely cockney".[6] The 1937 musical song The Lambeth Walk from Me and My Girl ends with a cry of "Oi!", expressing defiance and transgression of the working class characters;[7] it was newsworthy when the King and Queen "with the rest of the audience, cocked their thumbs and shouted Oi!"[8] "Oi" may have come into Cockney speech from the Romani language.[9] It is used in informal Japanese in the same way as in English, typically by older men to subordinates;[10] an elongated ōi is used when someone is at a distance.[11] A poll of non-English speakers by the British Council in 2004 found that "oi" was considered the 61st most beautiful word in the English language. A spokesman commented that "Oi is not a word that I would've thought turned up in English manuals all that often."[12]


In Music

The word is especially heard in punk rock, leading to the "Oi!" subgenre.

"Oi" is also used repeatedly in T.N.T. by AC/DC.

Uses internationally

  • In Catalan, "Oi!" is an interjection used to call someone's attention or "Oi?" to ask for confirmation (sometimes rhetorically). Etymologically, it is believed to derive from Òc, the affirmative particle (i.e., yes) in Occitan.
  • In Bengali, Urdu, Hindi, Punjabi, Nepali and other languages of the larger Indian subcontinent, "Oi" can be used as an exclamation, to get another's attention-calling word in an informal environment.
  • In Korean and Japanese, as in Catalan, "Oi" can be used to get another person's attention, but its use in both cultures is considered too casual for many situations, and potentially offensive in some. In Japanese this word is considered part of "masculine" or "rough" slang vocabulary.
  • In Brazil, mostly in the Center-West, is common to use "oi!" in the same way they use in Britain, although it is more common to use the colloquial similars "ou!" or "ei!/hei!". But is also a way to call someone to stop whatever they are doing and pay attention on something else.

Alternative similar interjections

  • In Cantonese, "wai" or "wei" is used to get someone's attention.
  • In Yiddish and Hebrew, "אוי" is an interjection used as English "oh, my", "oh, dear" (see Oy vey). It is used to express fear, surprise, pain, or exasperation.
  • In Greek, in addition to the universal "E!" (pronounced [ε], not [i]), a loud, long drawn "O" is used to call someone's attention in some places.
  • In the Philippines, the similar form "hoy" and "uy" is also used to get someone's attention; it is considered vulgar.
  • In Lithuanian, the similar form of the saying is "ej" or "ei", used to get someone's attention.
  • In Spanish, a similar variation of "Oye" (the "y" sound may be dropped in the Americas) is used to the same effect, usually in a casual environment.
  • In Galician and to a lesser degree Portuguese, specially in Brazil, the similarly sounding "Oe!" is also used to get someone's attention.
  • A similar variation to English "oi" is the word "ej" used in Polish to the same effect. In Poznań dialect of Polish there is an interjection "tej" [tei] which is used to get attention or as an interpolation.

Alternative meanings

  • In Dutch, the word "Oi" is sometimes used as a short for "Hoi", a greeting with the same meaning as "Hi" in English.
  • In Danish, Norwegian and Swedish, "Oi" or "Oj" (Øj in Danish) is an expression of surprise, positively as an astonishment (similar to English "Wow", neutral as in startled (comparable with English "Oops"), or disappointed with a drawn out intonation and descending pitch. (The same can be found in Finnish, but as "voi"). The English sense of "oi" is also used colloquially in Norwegian, but is written "øyh!" and "oj!" respectively.
  • In Finnish "oi" is used as an expression of reverence, like "oh" in English ("Oh almighty God"), for example in the Finnish version of the national anthem of Finland, Maamme, which starts with Oi maamme, Suomi, i. e., "Oh our land, Finland".
  • In Italian, a slight variation is used, "Ohi". As the h is silent, this expression has exactly the same pronunciation as "Oi", and is therefore often misspelled.
  • In Portuguese, especially in Brazil, the word "Oi" is the most common and popular way of greeting people, having the same meaning as "Hi" in English.
  • In Slavic languages like Polish or Russian, the word "oj!" (or "ojej!") is an interjection used as English "oh, my", "oh, dear". It is used to express fear, surprise or pain.
  • According to Nietzsche, in Greek "oi" was an expression of pain, and someone who was in pain or miserable was said to be "oizuros".[13] In Latin, the similar "oiei" was a cry of pain.[14]

See also


  1. ^ Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English
  2. ^ dictionary.com
  3. ^ Algeo, John (2006). British or American English?: a handbook of word and grammar patterns. Cambridge University Press. p. 211. ISBN 0521371376. http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=TuWRnRJpO7YC&pg=PA211. 
  4. ^ Linn, Virginia (9 April 2006). "Scrabble players adjust as official dictionary adds ' za , 'qi ' and 3,300 others". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/06099/680097-51.stm. Retrieved 5 March 2011. 
  5. ^ Sutton, Terri. "Blur". Spin. http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=UPmf0Kr8tR0C&pg=PA36. Retrieved 5 March 2011. 
  6. ^ Franklyn, Julian (1953). The Cockney: a survey of London life and language. A. Deutsch. p. 259. 
  7. ^ Samuel, Raphael; Light, Alison. "Doing the Lambeth Walk". Theatres of memory: Island stories : unravelling Britain. 2. p. 394. http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=z0sofYGrK9YC&pg=PA394. 
  8. ^ Richards, Jeffrey (2001). The unknown 1930s: an alternative history of the British cinema 1929-39. I.B.Tauris. p. 112. ISBN 186064628X. http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=g1icpzTz6gcC&pg=PA112. 
  9. ^ Hamm, Mark S. (1993). American skinheads: the criminology and control of hate crime. ABC-CLIO. p. 34. ISBN 0275943550. http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=DI9PZSWuRhkC&pg=PA34. 
  10. ^ Hinds, John (Routledge). Japanese: Descriptive Grammar. 1990. p. 207. ISBN 0415010330. http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=kn8zmP1LQq0C&pg=PA210. 
  11. ^ Lammers, Wayne P. (2005). Japanese the manga way: an illustrated guide to grammar & structure. Stone Bridge Press, Inc.. p. 249. ISBN 1880656906. http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=xaXukH72bl4C&pg=PA249. 
  12. ^ "Mum's the word, says the world". BBC News. 27 November 2004. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/4039185.stm. Retrieved 5 March 2011. 
  13. ^ Nietzsche, Friedrich Wilhelm (2006). "Later writings (1886-7)". In Keith Ansell-Pearson, Duncan Large. The Nietzsche reader, Volume 10. Wiley-Blackwell. p. 400. ISBN 0631226540. http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=6ERr1BtuezIC&pg=PA400. 
  14. ^ Lindsay, W. M. (2010). The Latin Language: An Historical Account of Latin Sounds, Stems, and Flexions. Cambridge University Press. p. 39. ISBN 110801240X. http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=zEBHglB7zOIC&pg=PA39. 

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • interjection — [ ɛ̃tɛrʒɛksjɔ̃ ] n. f. • v. 1300; lat. interjectio I ♦ Mot invariable pouvant être employé isolément pour traduire une attitude affective du sujet parlant. ⇒ exclamation; juron, onomatopée. II ♦ (1690; d apr. interjeter) Dr. Action d interjeter… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Interjection — In ter*jec tion, n. [L. interjectio: cf. F. interjection. See {Interject}.] [1913 Webster] 1. The act of interjecting or throwing between; also, that which is interjected. [1913 Webster] The interjection of laughing. Bacon. [1913 Webster] 2.… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • interjection — early 15c., from M.Fr. interjection (O.Fr. interjeccion, 13c.), from L. interiectionem (nom. interiectio) a throwing or placing between, noun of action from pp. stem of intericere, from inter between (see INTER (Cf. inter )) + icere, comb. form… …   Etymology dictionary

  • interjection — [in΄tər jek′shən] n. [ME interjeccioun < MFr interjection < L interjectio] 1. the act of interjecting 2. something interjected, as a word or phrase 3. Gram. a) an exclamation inserted into an utterance without grammatical connection to it… …   English World dictionary

  • Interjection — Interjection, Empfindungswort, Laut, womit der Mensch Empfindungen der Freude, der Verwunderung, der Furcht, des Schmerzes etc. ausdrückt, z.B. o, ah, ach, weh etc …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • interjection — index expletive, insertion, intercession, intervention (imposition into a lawsuit), intervention (interference), remark Burton s Le …   Law dictionary

  • interjection into a lawsuit — index intervention (imposition into a iawsuit) Burton s Legal Thesaurus. William C. Burton. 2006 …   Law dictionary

  • interjection — Interjection. s. f. L Une des parties d oraison, dont on se sert pour exprimer les passions, comme, Douleur, colere, joye, admiration &c. Ha! helas! sont des interjections. les interjections sont trop frequentes dans ce discours …   Dictionnaire de l'Académie française

  • interjection — ► NOUN ▪ an exclamation, especially as a part of speech (e.g. ah!, dear me!) …   English terms dictionary

  • Interjection — Une interjection est une catégorie de mot invariable, permettant au sujet parlant, l énonciateur, d exprimer une émotion spontanée (joie, colère, surprise, tristesse, admiration, douleur, etc.), d adresser un message bref au destinataire… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Interjection — In grammar, an interjection or exclamation is a word used to express an emotion or sentiment on the part of the speaker (although most interjections have clear definitions). Filled pauses such as uh, er, um are also considered interjections.… …   Wikipedia

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