greeting between persons meeting, 1848, early references are to the U.S. western frontier (where hello, the house was said to be the usual greeting upon approaching a habitation).
It is an alteration of hallo, itself an alteration of holla, hollo, a shout to attract attention, which seems to go back at least to late 14c. (compare Middle English verb halouen "to shout in the chase," hallouing). OED cites Old High German hala, hola, emphatic imperative of halon, holon "to fetch," "used especially in hailing a ferryman." Fowler in the 1920s listed halloo, hallo, halloa, halloo, hello, hillo, hilloa, holla, holler, hollo, holloa, hollow, hullo, and writes, "The multiplicity of forms is bewildering ...."
Its rise to popularity as a greeting (1880s) coincides with the spread of the telephone, where it won out as the word said in answering, over Alexander Graham Bell's suggestion, ahoy. Central telephone exchange operators were known as hello-girls (1889).
Hello, formerly an Americanism, is now nearly as common as hullo in Britain (Say who you are; do not just say 'hello' is the warning given in our telephone directories) and the Englishman cannot be expected to give up the right to say hello if he likes it better than his native hullo. [H.W. Fowler, "A Dictionary of Modern English Usage," 1926]
Old English þis, neuter demonstrative pronoun and adjective (masc. þes, fem. þeos), probably from a North Sea Germanic pronoun *tha-si-, formed by combining the base *þa- (see that) with -s, which is probably identical with Old English se "the" (representing here "a specific thing"), or with Old English seo, imperative of see (v.) "to behold." Compare Old Saxon these, Old Frisian this, Old Norse þessi, Middle Dutch dese, Dutch deze, Old High German deser, German dieser.
Once fully inflected, with 10 distinct forms; the oblique cases and other genders gradually fell away by 15c. The Old English plural was þæs (nominative and accusative), which in Northern Middle English became thas, and in Midlands and Southern England became thos. The Southern form began to be used late 13c. as the plural of that (replacing Middle English tho, from Old English þa) and acquired an -e (apparently from the influence of Middle English adjective plurals in -e; compare alle from all, summe from sum "some"), emerging early 14c. as modern those.
About 1175 thes (probably a variant of Old English þæs) began to be used as the plural of this, and by 1200 it had taken the form these, the final -e acquired via the same mechanism that gave one to those.
c. 1300, plesen, "to please or satisfy (a deity), propitiate, appease," from Old French plaisir "to please, give pleasure to, satisfy" (11c., Modern French plaire, the form of which is perhaps due to analogy of faire), from Latin placere "to be acceptable, be liked, be approved," related to placare "to soothe, quiet" (source of Spanish placer, Italian piacere), from PIE *pl(e)hk- "to agree, be pleasant," with cognates in Tocharian plak- "to agree," plaki "permission."
By mid-14c. as "satisfy (a person), be agreeable to, be satisfactory or acceptable; to be satisfied." Meaning "to delight, attract (someone), amuse, entertain, excite agreeable sensations in" in English is from late 14c. Inverted use for "to be pleased, be satisfied" parallels the evolution of like (v.).
Impersonal constructions with it, followed by an object and originally dative are common from mid-14c. Intransitive sense of "to like, choose, think fit" (do as you please) is recorded from c. 1500; imperative use (please do this), is recorded from 1620s (as please to), was probably a shortening of if it please (you) (late 14c.).
This impersonal construction with the indirect object of the person has given way in more familiar use to a personal construction, the original dative you, in if you please, for example, being now taken as the subject. The word in this sense was formerly common in polite request, may it please you, or if it please you, or, elliptically, please you : a mode of speech still common in addressing a judge or persons of rank or position : as, may it please the court ; if it please your honor ; please your worship ; etc. [Century Dictionary]
Verbs for "please" supply the stereotype polite word ("Please come in," short for may it please you to ...) in many languages (French, Italian), "But more widespread is the use of the first singular of a verb for 'ask, request' " [Buck, who cites German bitte, Polish proszę, etc.]. Spanish favor is short for hace el favor "do the favor." Danish has in this sense vær saa god, literally "be so good."