: -- used to wish good health especially to one who has just sneezed
"Gesundheit!" said the man on the bicycle as he passed a lady on the sidewalk who had sneezed.
"The air was filled with 'God Bless You' and 'Gesundheit' as our Tuesday study group got together the other day…. We were reading together accompanied by sneezes, but it helped us ignore our stuffed-up heads." -- From an article by Sirkka Holm in the Finnish American Reporter, December 2010
Did You Know?
When English speakers hear "achoo," they usually respond with either "gesundheit" or "God bless you." "Gesundheit" was borrowed from German, where it literally means "health"; it was formed by a combination of "gesund" ("healthy") and "-heit" ("-hood"). Wishing a person good health when they sneezed was traditionally believed to forestall the illness that a sneeze often portends. "God bless you" had a similar purpose, albeit with more divine weight to the well-wishing. It was once believed that the soul could exit the body during a sneeze, causing ill health, so folks said "God bless you" to ward off this danger. "Gesundheit," at one time, also served as a toast when drinking (much like its English counterpart, "to your health"), but this usage is now mostly obsolete.
Test Your Vocabulary
What 12-letter word beginning with "s" refers to the act, fact, or noise of sneezing? The answer is ...