The spoken English language has evolved tremendously since the 5th century. Did you know that a simple word like ‘hello’ has only been used for less than 200 years? The more common greeting would have been ‘hail’ or ‘ahoy’ if we were to turn back time. A phrase that is more commonly used today, in both the formal and informal settings, is ‘welcome aboard.’ This article will find out more about this phrase, its origin, Welcome Aboard meaning, use, and more.
History – Welcome Aboard Meaning
To properly appreciate the phrase ‘welcome aboard,’ it is important for us to know what it means. The Oxford dictionary defines the word welcome as a noun meaning a manner or instance of greeting someone and the word aboard as a preposition or adverb meaning to get into or enter a vessel like a ship, yacht, ferry, vehicle, train or plane; or to join a group, club, company, organization or institution.
When put together, the phrase ‘welcome aboard’ is a greeting used for new employees, guests, members, or travelers. It is commonly used for newcomers to a group, organization, institution, or travelers embarking on a trip. It is a regularly used substitute for the more common ‘welcome’ as it offers comfort and excitement for a new employee or member.
The phrase can be traced back to the early 18th century where ships and trains were the more popular options for long voyages. In its early use, the captain of the vessel or conductor of the train would bellow “All aboard!” just before the ship or train started its journey. This was more of a warning to passengers that the journey was about to begin than it was a greeting. If one missed this call, then they would be sure that the vessel will leave without them.
With the evolution of travel and the spoken English, the phrase ‘welcome aboard’ has been adopted by flight crew attendants when welcoming passengers onto the plane. Similarly, cruise ships, trains, and tour bus attendants popularly use the phrase to welcome passengers on board. It is common practice for service providers in the travel industry to use this phrase to welcome their clients.
‘Welcome aboard’ is more of an idiom when used about a new member or employee joining a group, organization, or institution. The Oxford dictionary defines an idiom as an expression commonly used but whose meaning does not have a literal relation to the meaning of the individual words. Common examples include ‘skeletons in the closet,’ ‘cat out of the bag,’ ‘breaking the ice, and many others.
About ‘welcome aboard,’ the group, organization, or institution is seen as a figurative ship, train, or vehicle. This institution is on a journey to grow, expand or earn more revenue. The new employee is being ushered into the vessel to begin or join them on their journey.
The phrase ‘welcome aboard’ can be found in any day-to-day conversation. It is important to note that the appropriate application for this phrase is where there is newness in the situation. This essentially means that the phrase would be inappropriate if used in an already ongoing situation. For example, if an employee has been with an organization for a significant period, it would be inappropriate to use ‘welcome aboard’ to greet the employee, even if it is the first time they meet them.
In reverse, ‘welcome aboard’ would be appropriate to use for a new employee joining the organization or moving to a new department within the same organization. A perfect situation where this phrase is commonly used in an informal setting would be an introduction letter, email, or speech for a new employee by the hiring manager, head of the organization, or colleagues. However, it is not recommended for use in official communication for new employees like in an offer letter or job contract.
An example of an introductory email for a new employee using the phrase ‘welcome aboard’ is shown below;
Dear Jane Doe,
It is with great pleasure that I welcome you to the Engineering Department at the Lunatic Express Cooperation. We wish to inform you that your start date will be October 17th, 2021.
The induction training is scheduled for October 17th, 2021, starting at 8 am in the conference room. During the training, you will be provided with all the pertinent Human Resource materials.
The Engineering Department is made up of 12 members who are excited to meet you. Our objective as a department is to ensure all engineering aspects of the Lunatic Express are always to code. We hope that your addition to the team will help us achieve and maintain this objective.
Our department Human Resources Manager, Ms. Lucy Main, will be available to receive you and take you through the induction. If you have any questions or concerns regarding the proposed start date and induction training, please feel free to contact me by replying to this email.
Once again congratulations and welcome aboard.
Engineering and Innovation Director
Lunatic Express Cooperation
In some rare instances, the phrase ‘welcome aboard’ is used by family members when welcoming someone new into their fold. In this scenario, the family is a vessel moving in the same direction regarding growth, development, and wellbeing. In this case, the appropriate use for ‘welcome aboard’ would be when welcoming a new brother-in-law, sister-in-law, or partner to the family.
It would also be appropriate when welcoming a new sibling to the family, whether new by adoption or birth. Although the use of ‘welcome aboard’ in a family setting is likely to sound more formal than informal, it can be an ideal ice breaker in a tense situation.
On a lighter note, the phrase ‘welcome aboard’ has been used by peers or age mates during major life milestones. For instance, a single lady getting married would be told welcome aboard the marriage club. Similarly, a preteen or 29 years old would be welcomed aboard the 20s or 30s, respectively.
Misconceptions Surrounding ‘Welcome Aboard’
There are varying opinions on the use of ‘welcome aboard’ as an alternative greeting. Whether it is about the appropriate setting to use the phrase or the correct order of words in the phrase, there is always something to discuss regarding the ‘welcome aboard’ phrase.
- Misconception Number 1: Use ‘welcome on board’ instead of ‘welcome aboard’
The long-running argument is that the phrase ‘welcome aboard’ is incorrect and should instead be replaced with ‘welcome on board. The simple response to this is that both phrases are correct. The word ‘aboard’ means onboard. Thus, both phrases are correct since the meaning is not distorted by interchanging them.
- Misconception Number 2: ‘Welcome aboard’ is slang
Slang is a mode of speech where the words and phrases used are informal and would not be acceptable in writing. Slang is commonly associated with a particular group of people, usually within a specific age set. An example of slang use would be ‘frenemy’ to mean someone who is both a friend and an enemy. Although debatable, ‘welcome aboard’ has been accepted as a formal expression over the years and does not have the same negative reputation that common slang has. Its continued use in official written communication further cements this concept.
- Misconception Number 3: ‘Welcome aboard’ can only be used in the context of travel
Although the origins of the phrase stem from the context of travel, it has been accepted for use as an idiom with regards to non-travel related context. Understanding a journey and a new addition to the entourage, ‘welcome aboard’ can be used appropriately in contexts where the situation allows. A new employee joining an organization to take on a project to meet a common goal can be taken as a new passenger boarding a vessel to reach the same destination.
The evolution of the spoken English language cannot be stopped. We should embrace this change and learn the meanings and appropriate use of new words and phrases. ‘Welcome aboard’ is a fresh, easy way to communicate and break the ice with someone new without being too formal. It creates a sense of familiarity and gives the new employee or member appreciation and belonging.
Frequently Asked Questions
- What does ‘welcome aboard’ mean?
‘Welcome aboard’ is a greeting used to welcome someone new to a group, team, organization, and company or family. Depending on the context, it can be used as a formal or informal greeting to break the ice.
- Is ‘welcome aboard’ an old version of ‘welcome on board’?
Yes. The word ‘aboard’ may be referred to as old English since its use was more popular in previous centuries. Nevertheless, the two terms mean the same thing and would be appropriate for use interchangeably.
- What is the right response to ‘welcome aboard’?
The phrase ‘welcome aboard’ is a type of greeting, and as such, it does not have a formal or outright response. However, just as one would say ‘thank you to a ‘welcome’ greeting, the same would suffice as a response to ‘welcome aboard.’
- Can I use ‘welcome aboard’ in a formal letter?
Depending on the context of the communication, the phrase ‘welcome aboard’ can be used in a formal letter or email. This will only be accepted if the communication is with regards to welcoming someone new to the organization.
- Can I say ‘welcome aboard’ to my stepdad?
The phrase is used when welcoming someone new to a group or, in this case, family. It can only be used in the context of newness and thus cannot be used as a regular greeting. If the family member is officially joining the family for the first time, it can be used as a welcome greeting. Also, depending on the status of the relationship, the greeting can be substituted for something more casual or can be used as an ice breaker.
- What are the acceptable synonyms for ‘welcome aboard’?
The most common substitute for the phrase ‘welcome aboard’ is ‘welcome on board. The phrase can be substituted for more casual speech, for example;
- “Join the club!”
- “Welcome to the club.”
- “We are happy to have you.”
In a business context, ‘welcome aboard’ can be substituted with more formal phrases like;
- Congratulations on being a part of our team.
- We are very pleased to welcome you.
- Welcome to our team.
- How do you use ‘welcome aboard’ in a sentence?
The phrase ‘welcome aboard’ can be used at the beginning of, in the middle of, or at the end of a sentence. Some examples are;
- Welcome aboard the Lunatic Express.
- All scientists, both young and old, are welcome aboard the Lunatic Express.
- The first thing I will say when I meet the new manager is, “welcome aboard!”
It can also be used as a stand-alone sentence at the beginning or end of a welcome speech, email or letter.
- What is the present and past tense of ‘welcome aboard’?
The present tense of ‘welcome aboard’ is ‘welcome aboard’ or ‘welcomes aboard’. Some examples in a sentence are;
- “Welcome aboard to the company, Matthew.”
- “The company welcomes aboard our newest Director, Matthew.”
The past tense of ‘welcome aboard’ is ‘welcomed aboard’. An example in a sentence is;
- “The new Director, Mattew, was welcomed aboard the company.”
- What is a welcome aboard letter?
A welcome aboard letter is an informal communique sent to a new employee before they report to work. The letter is sent before the official offer letter for the position. It is usually sent by the immediate manager of the new employee, department head, or another colleague as a way of welcoming the recruit.
The letter may contain a list of members of the team, contact information for the team, the departmental goals and objectives, and the new employee’s expected contributions to the team and organization.