gesundheit was our Word of the Day on 05/06/2011. Hear the podcast!
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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.
GESUNDHEIT Defined for English Language Learners
Definition of gesundheit for English Language Learners
—used to wish good health to someone who has sneezed
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