Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Aleteia
Sunday 01 August |
Saint of the Day: St. Alphonsus Liguori
home iconSpirituality
line break icon

Why do we say “God bless you” after sneezing?

GIRL SNEEZING

Lyubov Kobyakova | Shutterstock

Philip Kosloski - published on 08/30/17

You may be surprised at the answer.

The phrase is deeply engrained into Western culture. Whenever someone sneezes the immediate response from a nearby person is “God bless you,” or “Bless you!” Most of us never even think about it, and the phrase continues to be passed down to each generation.

Why do we say it? Where did it come from?

The phrase itself comes directly from the Old Testament and the practice of the early Christians. In the book of Numbers we see it rendered, “The Lord bless you and keep you!” (Numbers 6:24). Other instances are found in the liturgy, such as the phrase, “The Lord be with you.” It was a common phrase for Christians and used in many different circumstances.

The phrase wasn’t attached to sneezing until the 7th century. According to History.com, the phrase “derives from a papal decree supposedly issued during the reign of Pope Gregory I. Also known as Gregory the Great, he assumed the papacy in 590, at a time when the bubonic plague was raging through Europe. An early sign that the virus had entered a victim was a sneeze, so on or around 6 February 600 AD, the Pope is attributed with suggesting that God’s blessing be offered to anyone who sneezes in order to protect against falling ill.”

There was another tradition that stated a person is vulnerable to the devil when they sneeze, so saying “God bless you,” prevents any malevolent activity from occurring.

Regardless of the exact origins, the phrase is a biblical prayer that asks for God’s blessing upon someone who is suffering from sickness. It is a kind gesture, one that, if prayed with faith, calls down God’s grace upon someone in need.


STAR WARS

Read more:
The Christian phrase behind the Star Wars greeting #maythe4thbewithyou

Tags:
Church HistoryCulture
Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read Aleteia.org every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...




Top 10
1
HIDILYN DIAZ
Cerith Gardiner
Gold-winning Filipina Olympian shares her Miraculous Medal for th...
2
SIMONE BILES
Cerith Gardiner
Simone Biles leaves the Olympics with an important lesson for her...
3
PRINCESS DIANA AND MOTHER TERESA
Mathilde De Robien
Did you know Princess Di was buried with a rosary?
4
Zelda Caldwell
World-record winning gymnast Simone Biles leans on her Catholic f...
5
JEDZENIE
Theresa Civantos Barber
The one thing we all should do before this summer ends
6
Zelda Caldwell
German women’s gymnastics teams modest dress protests sport’s ...
7
Lauren Daigle
J-P Mauro
After 3 years Lauren Daigle ousts herself from #1 Billboard spot
See More
Newsletter
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.