Bless you

Bless you

Bless you is a common English expression addressed to a person after they sneeze. The origin of the custom and its original purpose are unknown. In current practice, it is a socially recommended response.

Origins and legends

Several possible origins are commonly given. The practice of blessing a sneeze, dating as far back as at least 77 AD, however, is far older than most specific explanations can account for.

One explanation holds that the custom originally began as an actual blessing. Gregory I became Pope in 590 as an outbreak of the bubonic plague was reaching Rome. In hopes of fighting off the disease, he ordered unending prayer and parades of chanters through the streets. At the time, sneezing was thought to be an early symptom of the plague. The blessing ("God bless you!") became a common effort to halt the disease.Straight Dope. Ed Zotti, Editor. [ "Why Do We Say "God Bless You" After a Sneeze?"] 27 September, 2001.]

A variant of the Pope Gregory I story places it with Pope Gregory VII, then tells the common (though untrue) story of "Ring Around the Rosey" being connected to the same plague. [] Mad Scientist posting by Robert West, Post-doc/Fellow]

A legend holds that it was believed that the heart stops when you sneeze, and the phrase "bless you" is meant to ensure the return of life or to encourage your heart to continue beating. [] Mad Scientist posting by Tom Wilson, M.D./PhD, Pathology, Div. of Molecular Oncology, Washington University School of Medicine ]

Another version says that people used to believe that your soul can be thrown from your body when you sneeze, [ Snopes Urban Legends] - Bless You!] that sneezing otherwise opened your body to invasion by the Devil or evil spirits, or that sneezing was your body's effort to force out an invading evil spirit. Thus, "bless you" or "God bless you" is used as a sort of shield against evil.

Alternatively, it may be possible that the phrase began simply as a response for an event that was not well understood at the time.Fact|date=September 2007.

Another belief is that people used to see sneezing as a sign that God would answer your prayers or an omen of good fortune or good luck. In this case, "Bless you" would be in recognition of that luck.

Tibetan Buddhists believe a sneeze (like meditation, falling asleep, preparing to die) can provide a moment of "clear consciousness", when people are opened to greater understanding. [] Washington Post article by Marc Kaufman,Washington Post Staff Writer]

Linguistic and cultural equivalents

In many English-speaking countries, the German equivalent, Gesundheit (which means "good health"), is used after sneezing or coughing.

When Russians hear someone sneezing they immediately say "будь здоров" or "будьте здоровы" which means "be healthy", to which the sneezer will reply "спасибо" which means "thanks".Fact|date=October 2007 Also, Russian and German superstition has it that if someone sneezes shortly after saying something, it is an affirmative omen in that something that has just been said is correct. In this situation Russians often say "на правду" which means "to the truth".Fact|date=October 2007

In Afrikaans it is "gesondheid", which means "good health".

In Albanian, one would say "Shëndet" (Health) which means one wishes the person sneezing good health. The reply would be "Faleminderit" (Thank you) or "Shëndet paç" (Health for you too).

A common Islamic Arabic expression, said upon sneezing, is الحمد لله "alḥamdu lillah" which means "Praise be to God". In turn the person who heard the first person sneeze may respond with يرحمك اﷲ "yaraḥamuk allah" meaning "May God have mercy on you". Another common saying is "صحة" which means "Health".

In Chinese, one says nothing.

In Czech it is "Na zdraví" which means "To health".

In Denmark it is "prosit", shortened from Latin "pro sit tibi" = "may it do you good".

In Dutch it is "gezondheid", which means "good health". "Proost", similar to "prosit", is also used.

In Estonian, one says "Terviseks" which means "To health".

In Finnish, one says "Terveydeksi" which means "To health".

In French it is customary to say "À vos (tes) souhaits," (Ah-voh-soo-eh) which literally means "To your wishes." At the second sneeze, you then say "À vos (tes) amours" which means "To your loves." If the person sneezes a third time, it is then customary for that person to respond "Et que les vôtres (tiennes) durent toujours" which means "and let yours last forever."

In Greek it's "γείτσες" (geítses), literally meaning 'healths'.

In Hebrew, the appropriate response is לבריאות (la-bree-oot) which means "to health".

In Hungarian one would say "Egészségedre" which means "To your health".

In Gaelic it's "Dia leat", literally meaning 'God be with you.'

In Italian, one says "salute," literally meaning "health." A rough translation reads, "Good health."

In Japanese one would say nothing but people believe that a sneeze means that someone is talking about them behind their backs or missing them.

In Kinyarwanda, one says "Kira" which means "blessings," to which the response is "Twese," which means "for both of us."

In Korean, one does not say anything, however, many Koreans in the U.S. have adopted the "Bless You" saying and use this response among Americans and Koreans, in English.

In Macedonian it is "na zdravje" which menas "To health".

In Norwegian it is "prosit", as in Denmark. However, it is not as common to say it as in many other countries.

In Persian the word "afiyat bashed" is used which means "bless you". In reply the person should reply with "salamat bashed" which means "I hope you be healthy".

In Polish it is "Na zdrowie" which means "To health".

In Portuguese, the usual response is "Santinho", literally "little saint", as an indication of blessing.

In Portuguese (Brazil), the usual response is "Saude" which, like Spanish, means "Good Health" or in literal translation "Health"

In Romanian, one would say "Noroc" (Good luck) or "Sănătate" (Be healthy), and the reply would be "Mulţumesc" (Thank you) or "Aşa să fie" (So be it).

In Sinhala one would say nothing but people believe when someone sneezes it means that they are being thought of or talked about.

In Spanish (particularly in Spain), the appropriate response is "Jesús" (Jesus Christ), as it is believed that when you sneeze your soul goes out of your body and when someone says "Jesús" your soul returns to your body. In Latin America and Mexico, "Salud" is used, which like in German means "good health", or in literal translation "health".

In Sweden it is "prosit", and as in Denmark is a more obligatory response than in Norway.

In Tamil, one would say "noorais", "nooru" which is "100"; "aaisu" is "years"; thereby wishing someone to live a hundred years.Fact|date=September 2007

In Telugu, one would say Chiranjeeva, which literally translates to live until eternity.

In Turkish it is "Çok yaşa" which means "live long". The appropriate response is "Sen de gör" which is a second person imperative which translates as "See it (my long life) as well". Another response is "Hep beraber", which translates to "(We live long) together".


* Opie, Iona, and Moira Tatem. "A Dictionary of Superstitions". Oxford University Press; Oxford, 1992. ISBN 0-19-282916-5

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • bless you! — 1. For God bless you!, used superstitiously to someone who has just sneezed 2. An expression of gratitude or affection • • • Main Entry: ↑bless * * * said to a person who has just sneezed Origin: from the phrase (may) God bless you …   Useful english dictionary

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  • bless you! — Gesundheit! (said after someone sneezes) …   English contemporary dictionary

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