ge·​sund·​heit | \ gə-ˈzu̇nt-ˌhīt How to pronounce gesundheit (audio) \

Definition of gesundheit

used to wish good health especially to one who has just sneezed

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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.

First Known Use of gesundheit

1914, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for gesundheit

German, literally, health, from gesund healthy (from Old High German gisunt) + -heit -hood — more at sound entry 3

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The first known use of gesundheit was in 1914

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Cite this Entry

“Gesundheit.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 10 Aug. 2022.

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