Hooah, Oorah, & Hooyah: Military Slang and Its Meaning

Low VA Rates Low VA Rates / Published Mar 9, 2016, 10:59 AM

If you have seen a movie featuring the United States military or have close friends or family in the military, it’s likely you’ve heard their battle cry. But do you know what that cry means? And did you know that there are several different versions of the word?

“Hooah!” “Oorah!” and “Hooyah!” are all cries that are considered military slang. While related, they do not always have the same meaning. These terms can be used to say yes, understood, thank you, you’re welcome, amen, nice to meet you, and many other things. No one really knows exactly how they started, but there are some interesting theories. Do you know how and when to use each of these terms? Test your military knowledge! 

Hooah and What It Means

Hooah is used by the U.S Army and means “yes” or “understood.” According to army.mil, it means “anything or everything except no.” A common belief is that it comes from the acronym HUA, which stands for “heard, understood, and acknowledged.” Instead of saying each letter of the acronym, it is pronounced as a single word: hooah.

Another popular theory is that it started on D-Day in World War II when a general told the Army Rangers to lead the way and they responded, “Who, us?” The general heard them say “HOOAH!” and was impressed by their calm and determined response. The word stuck. Some others believe that it started during the Vietnam War from the Vietnamese word for “yes,” pronounced “u-ah.” Others believe that it stemmed from other foreign war cries in languages such as Russian, Danish, Swedish, Dutch or Mongolian.

Some say that it comes from the British shout of “huzzah” or battle cries during the American Civil War. Or possibly from the familiar Southern song “Bonnie Blue Flag” with the verse that goes “. . . Hurrah, hurrah for southern rights, hurrah.” Or even from when Northern troops would often yell “Hoosah!” during the Civil War.

Oorah Meaning and Usage

Oorah is commonly used in the US Marine Corps, and some believe it is simply another version of hooah. However, there are other specific theories about the meaning and origin. It is commonly understood to mean “kill,” but is also used as a motivational expression. According to the Marines website, the term became popular in Korea in 1953. Marines would often travel by submarine where the call of “dive, dive” was accompanied by an alarm with an “aarugha” sound. Marines began using “aarugha” as a motivational tool, and it eventually molded itself into “oorah.”

This is not the only story regarding its origin. Some say it comes from Germany in the 1580’s from the term “hurren,” meaning “to move fast.” Others say it comes from Australia, where injured solders were treated during World War II. “Ooh rah” was a local Australian term that meant “farewell” or “until then.” Other theories suggest it comes from Mongol or Turkish war cries.

Hooyah and Its Meaning

Hooyah is the US Navy’s version of the battle cry, and it is used mostly to boost morale or as verbal acknowledgement.  While it is mostly used and recognized as a Navy Seal term, other members of the Navy use it as well. The origins are unclear, but are likely similar to those of the other terms, “hooah” and “oorah,” and the word typically has the same meaning.

Other American Battle Cries

Battle cries are almost as old as war itself. Hooah, oorah, and hooyah are fairly modern calls used today by United States service members, but other cries have motivated American soldiers since the beginning of our great country. “Liberty or Death” was a common rallying cry during the Revolutionary War. The phrase first appeared in Patrick Henry’s address in 1775 and was so powerful that it was often stitched on militia banners and even on solders’ clothes.

“Remember the Alamo” was another powerful cry that started during the Texas Revolution when Texas freedom fighters stood strong but were eventually overcome by Mexican forces. A reminder of the Battle of the Alamo, the cry was used to feed troops’ desires for vengeance and was later used in the Mexican-American War. 

The Rebel Yell was another battle cry that struck fear into the Union forces during the Civil War and is one of the most famous battle cries in history.

The Importance of Military Terms and Traditions

While hooah, oorah, and hooyah are considered military slang or jargon, they are often very meaningful to soldiers and are part of a deep-rooted tradition of discipline, obedience, and bravery. If you are a civilian, it is important to show respect for these traditions. However, most servicemembers won’t mind if a civilian answers with a “hooah” when working with military personnel.

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