When greeting a person, one can of course simply say “hello” or “hi”. Sometimes, however, a person may tack on the extra word “there”. This results in the greeting “hello there” or “hi there”. What does adding this word do to the greeting and why do some people choose to say it?
The “there” in “hello there” or “hi there” is one of many examples of emphasis. The greeting of “hello” or “hi” stands perfectly fine on its own, but in combination with “there” it becomes more emphatic. The “there” not only identifies the person being addressed more acutely, but it also reinforces the acknowledgment of that person.
Another purpose adding “there” to a greeting might have is to add syllables. This is another way of emphasizing a greeting. Quick and brief “hi” exclamations may not be as well heard, but a lingering “hi there” or “hello there” adds a simple syllable that carries the sentence a lot more clearly.
One interesting point is that, while it may be common to add “there” to greet someone with “hi there” or “hello there”, it is not a common practice to add it to departing words. For example, one does not say “goodbye there” or “see you later there”. These do not sound correct, likely because of the connotation embedded in the emphatic “there”. When speaking departing words, there is no need for a lingering connotation and no need to identify emphatically the person you were likely just engaged in talking with.