Why do people say “gesundeit” when someone sneeze?

NetherCraft 0

Did I spell that right?

13 Answers

  • In German, Gesundheit (meaning “Good health to you”) is a common traditional response to a sneeze, but it is also used in English-speaking countries. This reply stems from the belief in olden times, that a sneeze is precursory to a serious illness. Like the belief from the Middle Ages, when it was believed that when one sneezed, the heart stops, the soul left the body and could be snatched by an evil spirit. So, in English speaking countries, the German word “Gesundheit” (which means health) is occasionally said after a sneeze instead of “bless you.”

    Now, someone sneeze so I can say “Gesundheit.”

    paaatches –*nods* You spelled it right. *places a gold star sticker on Stephanie K’s forehead* If anyone askes you what the gold star is for you just tell them cause you spelled “Gesundheit” correctly.

  • Well I’m not sure about hte exact meaning of gesundeit or however u spell it but the “god bless u” which I’m assuming they mean the same thing originated during the days of hte black plague. Sneezing was a symptom that someone had it and so people would say god bless u to basically say “i’m sorry for your illness and god be with u”…hope that helps!

  • Gesundheit (German pronunciation (help·info)) (IPA pronunciation: [ɡəˈzʊntˈhaıt]) is the German word for health. When a person sneezes, Germans typically say Gesundheit! to wish them good health. This expression has found its way into the English language via Ashkenazi Jews (gezundheit) who were immigrating in large masses to the United States during the early twentieth century. It is sometimes used instead of the more common “bless you”.

    Often the word, when used in an English context, is mispronounced as [ɡəˈzʊnˈtaıd], and misspelled as “gazoontite”.

    Gesundheit is also used in Australia. It was imported to South Australia through the Evangelical Lutheran refugees who fled the established Lutheran church in the east of Germany. These Silesian immigrants spoke their own language until the two World Wars caused a dramatic decline in the use of German in Australia. Gesundheit was used until recent times by the majority English speaking population. Its usage seems now to have declined.

    There are different theories regarding the origin of this phrase. One idea is that the expression stems from the Middle Ages when the Bubonic Plague was threatening European health. In this case the person saying gesundheit was actually wishing good health upon themselves, since they may have been infected by the one who sneezed. During this time it was also commonly believed that sneezing made one’s body vulnerable to evil spirits. Thus another plausible explanation is that gesundheit was a blessing to ward off demons while the sneezer’s body was defenseless.

    Superstitions date back as early as Ancient Greece (ref. Herodotus, History 440 BC). The soul was thought to leave the body through the nose upon death, so a powerful sneeze was thus considered an ominous event.

    The following is a Jewish perspective on the custom: Although not technically part of Jewish Law (Halacha), the custom of saying gezuntheit, tzu gezunt, labreeyut, or God bless you is considered a mannerly custom. It is written in the Talmud that the patriarch Jacob was the first person to become ill before passing on. Before that, people would sneeze and die. When God infused the soul into Man, He “blew it” into Adam’s nostrils. Thus, when it came time for the soul to be returned to its Maker, it would leave through the same portal it arrived.

  • I say it because it’s non-religious and doesn’t imply that I believe in some silly supernatural spell I can cast with a few magic words like “Bless you” does. I’d prefer to say nothing, and usually do, but some people are so offended by that, as if I’m threatening their very lives, that I capitulate and meet them half-way.

  • FINALLY the truth! Being from German decendents I have always said it and everyone thinks it means “bless you” in german WHICH IT DOES NOT ! It does mean, like many have said here, to wish you good health, many different dialects but pretty much meaning the same thing!

    Good question!! AND thanks to those who actually KNOW and said it’s true meaning !!

  • RE:

    Why do people say “gesundeit” when someone sneeze?

    Did I spell that right?

  • Gesundheit is a German word and it means something like “be well” or “good health”. When people say it they are basically wishing you good health without involving religion like “God bless you” would.

  • It means “I wish you good health” in German. Most German-Americans say it even if they don’t know the rest of the language! 🙂

  • People used to think that when you sneezed, your spirit/soul could fly our, so by saying gesundheit ( means bless you) they were blessing it back in

  • Well … you have have to say SOMETHING, when God sneezes … don’t cha?

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