You’ve heard these peculiar expressions in movies and maybe in real life as well, and you might have noticed that it’s pronounced slightly differently depending on the situation. Has anyone ever explained why? Probably not, because, like most thing in this book, you’re just expected to know.
No matter the variant, it’s a military expression of acknowledgment and motivation that is also used to build unit cohesion and morale.
It probably all started with HUA, a radio operator acronym meaning “Heard Understood and Acknowledged”. During WWII, spoken usage of HUA spread throughout the Army and Air Force to indicate “anything but no” as well as to demonstrate enthusiasm. Given an order? Respond enthusiastically with HUA.
Today, the various branches of the US military use their own variations. The Army and Air Force still have the same pronunciation but spell it “Hooah!”. The US Navy has their own pronunciation, spelled “Hooyah!”, while the Marines, Coast Guard and Seabees shout “Oorah!”.
It’s also possible that they all derive from the archaic term “huzzah”, which, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is “used to express approval or delight; hurrah”, whose first documented use goes back to English sailors in the late 16th century.