Gesundheit Origin Story

Where does the Word Gesundheit Come from? What are the Misconceptions Surrounding it? How to Pronounce it?

You were taught from childhood about how and where to use certain words. Everyone has grown up using words like thank you, sorry, excuse me & please. You have developed a habit of saying bless you or Gesundheit when someone sneezes. It is considered a part of good etiquette. Today, we will be talking about gesundheit origin story, what language is gesundheit from , and how to pronounce gesundheit as well.

1. Gesundheit Origin Story

Entries found from 1200s, in Old English, the word meant free from special defect or injury. The word was used to wish a person good health and ward off any illness. It was quite common due to several misconceptions and superstitions in which people believed during early periods. 

In old German, it was used as gesund, which means healthy. And when a person sneezes, it is said to impart a blessing on him or her. From entries of 1914, in old high German, the words gisunt and gisunti were used to mean healthy. In all the entries ever recovered, heit was added as a suffix. Together, the word meant healthy hood. (See The Interesting History of Alphabet)

2. Misconceptions Surrounding Gesundheit Origin

Some misconceptions also exist regarding gesundheit origin as listed below:

  • It is believed that our heart stops for a moment while we sneeze. So in earlier periods there was a saying bless you could bring the dead back to life.
  • Another superstition was that when we sneeze, our soul exits our body through the nose. To stop the devil from taking away the soul, that person needs to be blessed immediately.
  • There is one more of this kind of belief wherein evil spirits are believed to enter our bodies through our noses when we sneeze.

Then, this gesundheit origin came about to prevent such things from happening. Moreover, it is used to necessarily give a blessing. (See Kudos Origin and Meaning

3. Use of Gesundheit in the English Language

Understanding the gesundheit origin gives an idea of the word. Let’s see how it has been used by the English people. The introduction of phrases and words from different regions determines the impact of immigration. Germans mostly migrate towards the middle-west, so the word gesundheit has been in use in US and UK as a result of the waves of immigration and is conventionally said to someone who just sneezed. (See Why do some people want to migrate to the United States?)

  • It was widely used during the migratory periods of the 19th and 20th centuries when the term gained an English accent as well.
  • However, during World War II, the word was less used because of the prevailing situation.
  • But after that, in the 1960s, this word evolved and has been more widely used since then.
  • But even after decades, the word is still being used for its root, meaning wishing good health to the person who sneezed. (See Brownie Points Origin)

4. How to Pronounce Gesundheit

After learning about gesundheit origin story and its use in English, it is time to learn to pronounce it correctly.

  • The traditional method of pronouncing the word is as follows. The word is made from gesund and heit. The correct pronunciation is gs-zund-height. The sound of s is pronounced as a Z, followed by a sharp d. Heit can sound like the pronunciation of height. But without a h sound towards the end.
  • According to the modern International Phonetic Alphabet, pronunciation of the word is gəzʉ́ndhɑjt. In the United Kingdom, the word has three syllables, guh, zuund, and hyt. Say each syllable loud and clear following the proper pronunciation. (See Trick or Treat Origin)

5. Learn How to Pronounce Gesundheit

In order to improve your pronunciation of the word,

  • you can look up tutorials online, like on YouTube.
  • you should avoid mixing various accents at all costs.
  • you can record your voice while saying the word in sentences. In this way, it will be easy to locate your mistakes and track your progress each time you try. (See Let the Cat Out of the Bag Origin)
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