The Collaborative International Dictionary
Heigh-ho \Heigh"-ho\ (h[imac]"-h[=o]), interj.
An exclamation of surprise, joy, dejection, uneasiness,
Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary
c.1400 as part of the refrain of a song; by 1660s as an exclamation to express yawning, sighing, etc.; see hey.
vb. To chant "heigh-ho", a cadence-count used for synchronized walking, marching, pulling, lifting, etc.
"Heigh-Ho" is a song from Walt Disney's 1937 animated film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, written by Frank Churchill (music) and Larry Morey (lyrics). It is sung by the group of seven dwarfs as they work at a mine with diamonds and rubies, and is one of the best-known songs in the film. The melodic theme for "Heigh-Ho" might have been inspired by Robert Schumann's composition for piano "The Happy Farmer, Returning From Work" from his 1848 work Album for the Young, Opus 68. The other Dwarf Chorus songs are "Bluddle-Uddle-Um-Dum" (the washing-up song) and " The Silly Song".
The phrase "Heigh-Ho" was first recorded in 1553 and is defined as an expression of "yawning, sighing, languor, weariness, disappointment". Eventually, it blended meanings with the similarly spelled "hey-ho". The phrase "hey-ho" first appeared in print in 1471, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, which says it has nautical origins, meant to mark the rhythm of movement in heaving or hauling.