‘Bless you’……(Why do I say that?)

I was asked the other day about why, in English, we say ‘Bless you’ to someone after they sneeze. And why only for sneezing, and not coughing?

Well, the answer seems to be…..nobody knows! Sorry!

Actually it was first cited back in 77A.D which I guess explains why the reasons have long been lost in history.

Maybe the best source of information is at: http://www.snopes.com/language/phrases/blessyou.asp.

The English on that website is a little challenging so I’ll summarise it here. The main suggestions are:

1. By saying ‘Bless you’ you are protecting the sneezer. To bless someone means to ask God to be kind to them.

2. People used to think that your heart stopped when you sneezed. Saying ‘Bless you’ meant either ‘I hope your heart starts again’, or, ‘Congratulations, your heart started again’!!!

3. Sneezing was connected with illnesses, for which, in the past, there were no cures for. Therefore, if you sneezed, you were possibly dying, so saying ‘Bless you’ was like saying ‘I’m sorry you are dying. May God now look after you.’

4. However, some people believed that sneezing was actually lucky, and if you said ‘Bless you’, you could also be lucky.

5. Another theory is that it is lucky to be sneezed on and ‘Bless you’ was a way of saying ‘Thank you’. This meaning of the phrase is still used today, often by older people to younger people, or a teacher to a child. For example, if I gave my grandma a gift, she would say ‘Oh, bless you. That’s so kind.’

People nowadays say ‘Bless you’ when someone sneezes without thinking about what it means. It is just polite to do so. But if you sneeze and someone says ‘Bless you’ to you, what do you say back?…

Just ‘Thank you,’ is fine. And if you sneeze you should say, ‘Excuse me.’

I hope you don’t have too much practice sneezing, though!


‘Bless you’……(Why do I say that?)」への8件のフィードバック

  1. In German we say “Gesundheit” which means “health”. I guess the a.m. reasons are similar, as you wish the other person may not become ill.

  2. Hi! When you sneezed, others say ” Bless You”, then you say ” Thank You”. It’s interesting. The theory of 4 seems possible, I think. I like it because it’s lucky thing to sneeze and then everyone will get something happy. I’m thinking about such as ” Bless You” in Japanese now. But I can’t recall it well though I usually use some Japanese like it. If I can, I’m going to send it right away.

    • In Japan when I sneeze, sometimes people say ‘odaiji-ni’ to me which is what you say when you hear that someone is ill, isn’t it?

  3. Hi! ” ODAIJI NI”means ” take care of yourself”, you know, you can use it when someone is ill as you said. When someone sneezed , sometimes some Japanese say ” ACHOO( HAKUSHON in Japanese) ” after someone who sneezed. Like copying a sound of sneeze. I guess that it mean you share such a bad condition . After copying the sneeze, you can say ” ODAIJI NI ” to someone who sneezed. I sometimes make a sneeze suddenly without notice . It’s so embarrassing!

    • That’s funny, Momo, that some people say ‘achoo’ after someone sneezes! I say it WHEN I sneeze! Another funny thing is when my mum sneezes she says, ‘A tissue!’

  4. Hi! It’s interesting that your mum says ” A tissue!” when she sneezes. She needs tissue paper?

    • Yes, it is funny that my mum says, ” A tissue!” when she sneezes! I don’t think she says it to ask for a tissue; it’s just what comes out of her mouth!
      (‘Tissue paper’ refers to usually very thin coloured paper which is used in the wrapping of smaller gifts in boxes to act as a cushion.)



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