Home » What Does “Top Of The Morning” Mean, Origin, and How To Respond?

What Does “Top Of The Morning” Mean, Origin, and How To Respond?

by Lily Morgen
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Top Of The Morning

Your colleague may greet you with the phrase “top of the morning to you” in the morning. You’re wondering what it means, and how to respond as you never heard of this greeting before.

“Top of the morning to you” was common in use in Ireland centuries ago. It is more of a stereotypical Irish old greeting to each other, which is not as commonly used in modern Ireland as you may think. Meanwhile, it is also seldom used in other English-speaking countries.

Let’s explore its meaning, origin, and how to properly respond.

“Top Of The Morning” Meaning 

The hard part of understanding this phrase is the meaning of “top”. In the phrase “top of the morning”, the word “top” is used to mean “the very beginning” or “the best“. So “top of the morning” is a way of referring to the very beginning of the morning or the best of the morning. 

“Top” emphasizes the freshness and best of the morning when people are just starting their day. Similar to the phrase “top of the hour”, which means the start of the hour. 

Why People Greet with “Top Of The Morning”

When you wake up at 6:00 am, you are starting your day at the very beginning of the morning. This can be called the “top of the morning”. The phrase “Top of the morning to you” is a traditional Irish greeting that wishes someone the best of the morning. It is a formal, polite, and creative alternative way of just saying “good morning”.

“Top of the morning” is often used to convey a sense of cheerfulness and optimism at the start of a new day. It is a way of wishing someone well and hoping that they have a pleasant and successful day ahead. 

“Top Of The Morning” Origin

“Top of the morning” was a common greeting in the United Kingdom in the 19th century. 

Historically, “top” was used to refer to the cream or best part of something. John Worlidge’s 1716 book A Compleat System of Husbandry and Gardening, which uses “top of the morning” to describe a period of time, not a greeting. 

John Worlidge’s 1716 book A Compleat System of Husbandry and Gardening, which use "top of the morning" to describe a period of time

Over time, this idiomatic use evolved into a greeting.

In a book by George Walker published in 1796, which already use “Top of the morning to you” as a greeting. 

George Walker published in 1796, already use _Top of the morning to you

The phrase was used beyond Ireland, including in Scotland, as evidenced in Sir Walter Scott’s “The Heart of Mid-Lothian” (1818).

The Heart of Mid-Lothian - the top of the morning

Also in the book Rookwood: A Romance (1834) by William Harrison:

Rookwood- A Romance (1834) by William Harrison- the top of the morning

 

By the early 20th century, the book English as We Speak It in Ireland said that “top of the morning” was a common greeting in Ireland. 

English as We Speak It in Ireland said that "top of the morning" was a common greeting in Ireland.

However, it had largely fallen out of use by the mid-20th century. Interestingly, American filmmakers in the mid-20th century picked up “top of the morning” as an Irish colloquialism, despite it having fallen out of use in Ireland.

Examples include the Disney film “Darby O’Gill and the Little People” and Bing Crosby’s film “Top o’ the Morning” (1949), the film “Leap Year” (2010), and others. Particularly those set in Ireland or involving Irish characters. This has led to it being used more widely, even by people who are not of Irish descent. 

How to Respond to “Top of the Morning to you”

Here are some polite and friendly responses you can use. They all have a positive tone set by the initial greeting in a day. 

  • “And the rest of the day to you!”
  • “Top of the morning to you too!”
  • “Thank you! May your day be filled with joy.”
  • “A fine morning to you as well!”
  • “And a very good morning to you!”
  • “May your day be as bright as the morning sun!”
  • “Thank you! How are you today?”
  • “Morning! How’s it going?”
  • “Cheers! Have a great day ahead!”

Final Thought

The old-fashioned phrase “top of the morning to you” is a rich and colorful expression that carries with it a sense of history, culture, and warm wishes. Even though it’s not used as much in modern Ireland, it still offers a charming and unique way than saying “good morning” to greet a person at the start of a new day. 

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