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Q: Definition and history of Navy diver saying "Ho ya" or "Hu ya" (Sp?) ( Answered 4 out of 5 stars,   0 Comments )
Subject: Definition and history of Navy diver saying "Ho ya" or "Hu ya" (Sp?)
Category: Reference, Education and News > General Reference
Asked by: scoti-ga
List Price: $2.00
Posted: 09 Mar 2003 23:48 PST
Expires: 09 Apr 2003 00:48 PDT
Question ID: 174078
I need the definition and history of the navy diver saying "Ho ya" or "Hu ya"(SP?)
Subject: Re: Definition and history of Navy diver saying "Ho ya" or "Hu ya" (Sp?)
Answered By: byrd-ga on 10 Mar 2003 10:24 PST
Rated:4 out of 5 stars
Hi Scoti,

Thanks for the interesting question! I first heard this expression
when my son enlisted in the Army five years ago, and since then I’ve
often wondered about it myself.

Curiously enough, what I found is that while the Army and the Marine
Corps both lay enthusiastic claim to this expression, the Navy largely
denies its use.  The only place I found that states its use
specifically by Navy is here: where it’s
stated, “ The word is thundered out by Navy SEALs ...”  But in another
place, I found this quote: “Nah, we don’t say hooah,” one Navy officer
explained, barely uttering the word above a thin whisper.” (Scroll to the very end.)

Also, there appear to be two separate versions of the word, with two
separate spellings and main histories, though in some places they do
overlap.  The Army spells the word, “Hooah,” while the Marines
generally use “Oorah,” though when you hear a company (or even a
single person) bellowing it out, they sound much the same.  However,
as the history of the Marines version has a connection to the Navy,
and your question specifies Navy, and the above connection is to Navy
SEALS who are divers, I’ll concentrate on that, but I’ll also provide
you some information about and links to the Army’s version in case
you’re interested in checking that out as well.

The straight scoop is that nobody knows absolutely for certain the
origin of this saying, nor is there any completely 100% agreed-upon
precise definition.  However,  I’ll give you the most popular versions
and let you make up your own mind.


First, “Oo-rah” is actually more of an expression, or exclamation,
than an actual word, or as one site states, an “.... expression[s] of
verve, spirit, morale, espirit, eliteness and sometimes derision!” ( 
Those who use it seem to understand it well; to those who do not it is
and remains something of a mystery.  Perhaps this cry needs to be
uttered, or shouted, in context, in its natural milieu, rather than
merely read or rotely repeated, in order to be fully understood: a
rite of passage, a battle cry, an expression of a way of  being, or
thinking, that an outsider can never fully appreciate.
One Marine website says: " OOH-RAH (pronounced correctly) is the last
sound that commie bastard hears as you shove your bayonet in his gut"


The most common story is that it originated with a recon company of
Marines aboard a submarine, imitating the sound of the dive horn,
which resembled the “ahooga” sound of an old Model A Ford horn, and
from there evolved into the modern-day “oo-rah.”  This would seem to
have the closest relationship to the Navy diver of your question. 
Some good retellings of that version are here:

However, another story traces the origin to the Turkish word for
“kill,” “uhra.”  Anther says it comes from an old Russian battle cry,
and yet another speculates it started as a way to make fun of the
Army’s “Hooah.”

And here’s yet one other explanation: “’Oorah!’The explanation that
was given to me was that it came from the Battle of Beleau Wood, where
the Marines faught like devil dogs and "oorah" were the sounds they
were grunting during hand to hand combat. And yes, it is for
motivation now. Mark Leibowitz USMC 1996-2000”
But these are all just word-of-mouth speculations or traditions whose
source and/or authenticity is unknown.

Here’s a confession from a former Marine officer who unsuccessfully
tried to find information on the origin and meaning of “oorah,” and
ultimately decided to remain unenlightened:

Check out these links for more information (if you don’t see the
appropriate section right away, use your browser’s “edit” “find” and
type in the word “oorah”.):

Links to the definition and meaning of the Army’s “Hooah:”

HOOAH - A slang term used by soldiers (circa 2001). primarily light
infantry, airborne troops and rangers, referring to or meaning
anything and everything except "no."  Some documented meanings
(presumably depending on context and the situation):  (1) Wonderful,
great; (2) Good copy, solid copy, roger, message received, understood,
good; (3) Glad to meet you, welcome; (4) I don't know the answer, but
I'll check on it, I haven't the vaguest idea; (5) You've got to be
kidding; (6) Thank you; (7) Go to the next [briefing] slide; (8)
You've taken the correct action; (9) I don't know what that means, but
I'm too embarrassed to ask for clarification; (10) I am not listening;
(11) That is really neat - I want one too; (13) Yes; (14) Stop
sniveling; (15) That is enough of your drivel - sit down; (16) Amen.

Another explanation: 
HOOAH" (who-ah) adj. [slang used by US Army soldiers, primarily
airborne/rangers] Airborne acronym: H.U.A. meaning "Heard, Understood,
and Acknowleged". Referring to or meaning anything and everything
except "no". Generally used when at a loss for words ...”
Urban dictionary definition:


Another version: 

“... Though your January article "HOOAH!" was very interesting in its
history of the Second Dragoons' meeting with Chief Coacoochee, I
believe its explanation of the origin of the term "hooah" is off the
   During the Vietnam War many American soldiers used Vietnamese and
Vietnamese-French expressions interchangeably with English.  One
widely used term was the Vietnamese word for "yes," which is
pronounced "u-ah." When assigned a task or asked a question, soldiers
would often answer with "u-ah." This term -- used for many years after
the war by many soldiers, is easily changed to "hooah ...." Fort
Sheridan, Ill

I hope the above information has given you some insight as to the
meaning and origin of this term, although as I said, it appears
unlikely that anyone could provide a definitive and conclusive
etymology of this expression.  But if you need clarification on
anything, please do ask before rating and closing the question so I
can be sure you understand and are satisfied with the information
given.  Again, thanks for the opportunity to work on this question and
satisfy my own curiosity along with yours!

Best regards,

Search terms used: 
origin meaning hooah OR hooya OR ooyah OR oorah
hooah OR oorah
navy battle cry oorah OR hooah

Clarification of Answer by byrd-ga on 01 Apr 2003 12:30 PST
Hi Scoti,

Thank you very much for the rating and generous tip.  I'm glad you
were happy with the answer provided.  I do apologize for not getting
back to you sooner, but I've been away.  Armed with the further
information you've provided, I will have another look and see if I can
find anything more on the history of this expression as connected to
Navy EOD divers.  I will post a clarification should I come up with

I do wish you all the best of luck in your training.  I'm sure you
will do fine!

Best regards,
scoti-ga rated this answer:4 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $4.00
Thank you sir, I'm a PSI(Perspective Student In Trainning) this means
that I'm working woth the EOD team till O go to school to be EOD. I'm
in hassing mode they drop me and make me do push ups for nothing. I'm
having a blast! I was given a day to find the info I requested and you
puled thru for me, The EOD team does thionk that the navy has a
different saying from both the army and marines, the EOD/seal navy
divers say "Ho Yah" I made up a history from the diferent parts of
your E-mail and they were satisified. You don't have to but if you
want to get the exact definition, it would be cool to know it as a EOD
navy diver. Prey I make it through the school Thanks again, Scott

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