Hello, with that spelling, was used in publications in the U.S. as early as the 18 October 1826 edition of the Norwich Courier of Norwich, Connecticut. Another early use was an 1833 American book called The Sketches and Eccentricities of Col. David Crockett, of West Tennessee, which was reprinted that same year in The London Literary Gazette. The word was extensively used in literature by the 1860s.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, hello is an alteration of hallo, hollo, which came from Old High German "halâ, holâ, emphatic imperative of halôn, holôn to fetch, used especially in hailing a ferryman". It also connects the development of hello to the influence of an earlier form, holla, whose origin is in the French holà (roughly, 'whoa there!', from French là 'there'). As in addition to hello, halloo, hallo, hollo, hullo and (rarely) hillo also exist as variants or related words, the word can be spelt using any of all five vowels.
The use of hello as a telephone greeting has been credited to Thomas Edison; according to one source, he expressed his surprise with a misheard Hullo. Alexander Graham Bell initially used Ahoy (as used on ships) as a telephone greeting. However, in 1877, Edison wrote to T. B. A. David, president of the Central District and Printing Telegraph Company of Pittsburgh:
Friend David, I do not think we shall need a call bell as Hello! can be heard 10 to 20 feet away. What you think? Edison - P.S. first cost of sender & receiver to manufacture is only $7.00.
By 1889, central telephone exchange operators were known as 'hello-girls' because of the association between the greeting and the telephone.