) KEY INTERJECTION:
- Used to attract attention or to express surprise, appreciation, wonder, or pleasure.
was just an exclamation. Sometimes it expressed delight, sometimes a warning. Nowadays we find it used for emphasis as well, especially in the expression but hey.
It is also a greeting. It is a short, colloquial version of How are you?
and thus close kin to the informal salutation hi,
which it seems to be replacing in many situations. Until recently, this greeting had a distinctly Southern flavor. The national survey conducted in the 1960s by the Dictionary of American Regional English
as a greeting restricted chiefly to Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas. The friendly hey
has since spread throughout the United States.