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Today Devon over at Head, Shoulders, Knees and all that wrote a blog post about sneezing in Japan. He said in Japan they say hak-shun when they sneeze. In English we say a-choo.

After Japanese people sneeze, no one says anything special.

In English we say God bless you or Gesundheit. Gesundheit is a German word that literally means health. In German, and also in Yiddish, it’s also said after someone sneezes.

In Italian, they say Felicita (Happiness) after someone sneezes. In French they say Que Dieu vous bénisse (May god bless you) or A tes/vos souhaits (lit. To your wishes).

I’ve been told, and would love a verification, that in China, when someone sneezes, the others in the room bow.

Even the Romans said, Absit omen! (which I believe meant something like, God forbid this from being an omen), after someone sneezed.

It’s believed that the custom of saying “God bless you” comes from the time of a plague, when sneezing was a symptom that you were ill with the sickness.

In some cultures sneezing has been seen as a sign that evil is around. In others, it’s been believed that part of the soul can be expelled by a sneeze.

Of course, with all these beliefs about what happens when you sneeze, some proverbs have arisen about the subject. In Japan, according to Devon, there’s one that has to do with how many times you sneeze…

It says if you sneeze once, it means someone is praising you;
If you sneeze twice, it means someone is criticizing you/saying bad things about you;
If you sneeze three times, it means you are being scolded;
And if you sneeze four times or more, well, it means you have a cold.

In English there’s a saying about the number of times you sneeze and what it means too. It goes…

Once, a wish,
Twice a kiss,
Three times a letter,
Four times something better.

Here’s an English proverb about the day you sneeze on, and what that means…

If you sneeze on Monday, you sneeze for danger;
Sneeze on Tuesday, you kiss a stranger;
Sneeze on Wednesday, you sneeze for a letter;
Sneeze on a Thursday, for something better;
Sneeze on a Friday, you sneeze for sorrow;
Sneeze on a Saturday, your sweetheart tomorrow;
Sneeze on a Sunday, your safety seek,
The devil will have you the whole of the week.

Here’s a last proverb that tells about what it means if you sneeze at different times of day…

Sneeze before you eat,
See your sweetheart before you sleep.
Sneeze between twelve and one,
Sure sign somebody’ll come.
Sneeze between one and two,
Come to see you.
Sneeze between two and three,
Come to see me.
Sneeze between three and four,
Somebody’s at the door.

Please comment below let us know about sneezing in your culture… it’d be interesting to know what sound a person makes when they sneeze, what you say afterwards and anything else you’d like to share about sneezing.

May you all sneeze the right number of times, at the right time, and on the right day! Or perhaps even better, may you not sneeze at all!

Lisa

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This artilce was posted on Friday, June 2nd, 2006 at 4:39 pm and is filed under Countries & Cultures, Customs and Traditions, English, English Nursery Rhymes, English Proverbs, France, French, German, Gesundheit, Italian, Italy, Japan, Japanese, Languages, Latin, Nursery Rhymes, Proverbs, Proverbs about Sneezing, Sneezing, USA, United Kingdom, Words & Phrases, Yiddish. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

57 Responses to “How Do You Sneeze in Your Country?”

  1. Monique Says:

    Reading your post reminded me that when a girl or young woman rubs her nose because it’s itching, (in France) we say “Il y a un jeune qui pense à toi et un vieux qui veut t’embrasser” which means “A young one is thinking of you and an old one is wanting to kiss you”.

  2. Björn Says:

    In Sweden when somebody sneezes, we say “prosit”, wich derrives from the Latin words “pro”, wich means “for”; and “esse”, wich means “to be”. Litterally, “May it gain you”.

  3. Lisa Says:

    Monique wrote, “That’s what Germans say for “Cheers!” before drinking.”

  4. Monique Says:

    I knew I was forgetting something: we also say (in France) “À tes amours!” = “to your loves” (feelings and relationship). The expected response is “Que les tiennes durent toujours” = “May yours last forever”, and we might add “Si elles n’ont pas commencé, qu’elles commencent dans quelques jours”= “If they didn’t start yet, may they start in a few days”. As it deals with a very private matter, we say this to people we know well, among friends, female friends above all, as you wouldn’t want to say this to someone who’s just been dropped flat, at least I hope not!

  5. Alejandra Says:

    In Argentine when someone sneezes we say “salud”, which means “health” in order to wish the person to have a good health. And, if you know the person and he/she is continuosly sneezing, the second time we might say “dinero”, which means money, and the third time we say “amor”, which means love. According to how many times the person sneezes, he/she will have luck in health, money or love.

  6. Angelique Says:

    In Holland we “say” hatsjoe when we sneeze.. and mostly people will say Gezondheid to the people who sneezes… it is the translation for the german word Gesundheit…

    If someone sneezes 3 times in a row whe say “morgen mooi weer” wich means “great weather tomorrow” I need not explain that I hope..

  7. Conor Says:

    In Ireland, for “cheers”, most people say “Sláinte”, which is Irish Gaelic and they will say this even if they speak little Irish. For “God Bless You” they say that of course, but when we´re speaking Irish we say “Dia leat” (God be with you) or “Dia linn” (god be with us).

    In Spanish, when someone sneezes, they say “Jesús”.

  8. Mohammed Says:

    God Bless you, everyone!

    In Islamic ettiquette, if one sneezes, one would say “Alhamdulillah!”, which means “Praise be to God!”.

    If you hear someone sneeze, you say “Yar hamok Allah!”, which means “May God have Mercy on You!”.

    I believe the wisdom behind it is that by sneezing, God has alleviated you from discomfort, and hence we praise Him for this. And if you see someone sneezing, you obviously want God to help them, and hence we ask God to have mercy on them.

    If anyone has any queries on Muslims or Islam, then please feel free to email me at kamran_younas@hotmail.com – Islam is a beautiful religion that claims to be the successor to Christianity just as Christianity succeeded Judaism – we believe that the same God that sent Abraham, Moses and Jesus also sent Muhammad.

    The religion is much-misunderstood, and so I would gladly like to dispel any queries you may have!

    God Bless you all!!

  9. Maria Says:

    As a kid my mom used to say “Jesús te ayude; Jesús te acompañe con un viejito que no te regañe”.

  10. Maria Says:

    I guess I should have told you all where I am from! LOL. I am Mexican. My mom is from Jalisco Mexico and my Dad is from Zacatecas.

  11. Lisa Says:

    Monique Palomares translated the Mexican saying from Maria…

    “Jesús te ayude; Jesús te acompañe con un viejito que no te regañe”

    into English as…

    “May Jesus help you, may Jesus go/be with you along with an old man who wouldn’t scold you”.

    Thanks Monique and Maria (and everyone else who has written in)!

    -Lisa

  12. Maria Says:

    In Portugal, we say “santinho” which is pronounced san-TEEN-yoo.

  13. Tetyana Says:

    When you sneeze the Ukrainians would tell you ,” Bud’te zdorovi!” or ” Aby vy buly zdorovi!” which in English means :”Be healthy”, or “Health be with you” ,and your answer is “Diakuiy” that is “Thank you”.

  14. abdu Says:

    in arabian countries, as prophet Mohammad teach us when somebody sneez he should say (alhamdo lillah) mean’s thanks my god ….and every body around should say (yarhamoka Allah ) means god’s mercy be upon you …. thanks

  15. jack Says:

    Someone once told me that in at least some parts of germany there are different “blessings” with each of several sneezes.
    Does anyone know of this and what the blessings relate to. Maybe health, wealth, luck or whatever?

  16. Steve Says:

    Ashkenazi Jews use a “progression” of blessings to address the situation Jack is talking about–i.e., when a person sneezes several times in a row. I suspect the custom in German-speaking lands is somewhat similar since both German and Yiddish have the same parent language. Here is what Yiddish-speaking Jews would say after each of five sneezes: 1. tsu gesunt 2. tsu lebn 3. tsu vaksn 4. tsu kvelln 5. tsu zeyn leytn gefelln.

  17. Lisa Says:

    Thanks for writing. I’m wondering if anyone could translate those phrases for us?

    Thanks in advance.

    Lisa

  18. Monique Says:

    To Steve:
    What does this mean?

  19. Steve Says:

    The Yiddish blessings could be roughly translated as 1. to health (”your” is implied in each of the blessings) 2. to life 3. to growth (in strength and vigor; compare the verb “to wax” in Old English) 4. to happiness or contentment 5. to the disappearance of your sorrows.

    There is, by the way, another Yiddish blessing, unrelated to sneezing, that combines many of these ideas: Vaksn zols du, tsu gesunt, tsu lebn, tsu lange yor — i.e., May you grow in health, in life, in the length of your years.

  20. Kim Says:

    Funny! I just realized that we say the same thing for “God bless you” in Denmark as well as Sweden. We appearently both says “Prosit”, and the origination of this word can be read under Björns post above.
    By the way – I like the extensive lessons in french above by Monique.
    Actually I Googled for for the french expresion, and found this page :)
    Bye all, Kim.

  21. Pinaki Says:

    In Bengali, when someone sneezes we say “Jibo” meaning “may you live long”. It is believed that when you sneeze, somebody is thinking of you and a part of your soul escapes through your nose and goes to that person.

  22. FONCEUR Says:

    In Mexico when they sneeze they say salud, which means health in english. which is a way of wishing health for the person who sneezed, if reply the person says gracias which means thank you.

    which ever religion or which ever place there are lots of similarities which we can see.

  23. Amerikano Says:

    In the Philippines, or among Filipino Americans, I have only heard the English “Bless You”, or simply “Bless” said in response to a sneeze- but my experience with sneezes is mostly limited to one region of the Philippines, and there is are a lot of languages or dialects spoken there.

    Among Tagalog (a.k.a. Filipino/Pilipino) speakers that I know, coughs have a special response, though. When someone coughs the response is “Ubo!” (oo-BO’ with a glottal stop at the end). This literally means “Cough!”

    I initially thought it was a declaration, like “Hey, you just coughed!” The best answer I’ve received as explanation is that it is an encouragement to go ahead and caught to relieve the discomfort. (Like “Cough it up!” but without the crude connotation). For prolonged coughing fits, I’ve heard “Tama na, ubo ka na” (It’s alright, go ahead and cough, might be one translation).

    I’ve also noticed, although this may not be so universal, rubbing the back of the person coughing instead of pounding it.

    Perhaps these are reflections of how highly Filipinos value hospitality towards others. In general, I find that Filipino social norms dictate a very high degree of accommodating others in order to be considered polite or to show friendship.

  24. Lisa Says:

    That’s interesting. We were discussing customs of greeting people around the world (you can click the link to read about it if you’d like). I’d be curious to hear how Filipinos greet each other.

    -Mama Lisa

  25. Daniel Says:

    In Bosnia-Herzegovina (Few more former Yugoslavia republics) saying is “Na Zdravlje” which would be something like “To Your Health”. If you are small child one would also use “Pis Maca”, I guess that would be sound one would make to scare cat away.

  26. Lisa Says:

    Here’s a slightly different sneezing nursery rhyme I found from the one in my post above…

    SNEEZE on Monday, sneeze for danger;
    Sneeze on Tuesday, kiss a stranger;
    Sneeze on Wednesday, receive a letter;
    Sneeze on Thursday, something better;
    Sneeze on Friday, expect sorrow;
    Sneeze on Saturday, joy to-morrow.

  27. Marijka Says:

    In Ukrainian, one would say “Na Zdarovlya” when someone sneezes. Translated it means “to your health.” The “your” is implied. You would also say this phrase when toasting a shot of Vodka, Samahonka (moonshine), or even Champagne. I remember my Baba (Slang for Grandmother – the proper would be Babushka) would tell me that it looks as if money was in my immediate future if I would sneeze five times. She would also say that if my hand was itchy. I don’t recall any immediate windfalls ;)

  28. Jen Says:

    Chinese don’t bow for someone’s sneeze:) In China, the common phrase when someone sneezes is “Yi Bai Sui”, pronounced as “yee-bai-swei”, means “may you live one hundred years”, or “chang ming bai sui”, pronouced as “chan min bai swei”, means “longevity”.

  29. Petra F.T. Says:

    I have a cold, so I have a lot of sneeze recently… We, Hungarians, say “Egésszégedre!” if somebody sneezes, it means “for your health”. When a kid sneezing, he usually say “hapci”. It just a imitative word :)
    If you sneeze when somebody is speaking, he tell the truth.
    (I hope my English isn’t bad…)

  30. nika Says:

    In Poland, we say:
    - “Na zdrowie!”, lit. “For health” and means wish that the sneezing will turn into your health; we also say “Na zdrowie” for “Cheers”
    - to kids, “Daj ci Bozia zdrowko”, “God (Goddy actually…) give you health (healthy actually, diminutive again)”
    - “Sto lat!”, lit. “100 years!”, wish that you would live long, 100 years; “Sto lat” song is Polish “Happy Birthday” song
    - i know people in different part of Poland would say other things, too, i wish to know them all;))
    To Petra, we have the same: Sneezing while speaking = telling the truth!

  31. alli Says:

    I was just wondering if anyone knows how to say “God be with us” is Swedish? =) I’d greatly appreciate it if anyone knows! Thanks.

  32. Slavka Says:

    In Slovakia, we say “Na zdravie!” which means “For health” :) Some people say if you sneeze one time, it’s for health, if two times, it’s for luck and if four times, it’s for love

  33. Tessa Says:

    So in my latin class i’m supose to find out what they said after someone sneezed, in latin. So far I can’t find anything. Is there a way someone can help? Thank You.

  34. Monique Says:

    Just ask our friend Google and you’ll find that they said “Salve” “Good health to you” (at least that’s what I found)

  35. kawkami Says:

    The Japanese actually do say something special. They say odaijini (おだいじに), which means please take care.

  36. Rahul Says:

    In our country we sneeze with our mouths….what do they do in ur country? ;-)

    seriously, i am not aware of anysuch word, though in some parts we say ‘Hari Om’ (name of god) when someone burps….

    actually, I was looking for a word that Hispanics in the US use when someone sneezes, heard it a lot in California……could someone enlighten me?

  37. Lisa Says:

    Here are some more, thanks to Devon Thagard of Super Simple Songs on their Facebook Group

    Sejla: “In Bosnia, we say ‘nazdravlje’.”
    Oei WanNi: “in Indonesia ‘hatchi’ and after someones sneeze usually we say ‘cepet gede’ means grow up fast :) or some people also say ‘bless you’.”
    María: “In Spain we say: ¡Salud! or… ‘al cielo’… ‘Jesús’… and many other things… jajaja.”
    Mi Kyong Yoo: “‘Ah-choo!’ is the sneezing sound in Korean :D we don’t say anything afterward.”
    Mi Kyong Yoo: “correction… Eh-Chee would be better for Korean.. haha sorry.”
    Silvia: “‘Aaaaachis!’ is the sound in Spanish!”
    Victoria: “It sounds in Russian ‘Apchhi!’ and we say ‘bud zdorov’ :)”
    Zain: “canada/america- (h)aaachuu. bless you, or sometimes gazuntite (rarely).”
    Hibba: “in abu dhabi we say ‘atchuu’ and someone says to you ‘alhamdilla’ (god bless you) and you reply to them ‘yar hamkum alla’ meaning god bless you too this is regardless of religion.”
    Veronica: “In the Philippines, it’s ‘Aaaatsi!’ and then we say ‘Bless you’.”
    Joelle: “Troy, in Japan after someone sneezes, try saying: ‘yobarete, tobidete, ja ja ja jaaan!’ Next time a Japanese team member sneezes, try saying it! (kids won’t get it, only works on adults about 30 years +).”
    Luz: “In Spain: ‘AAAAAAACHÍSSSS!’ And then someone says: ‘Salud!’ or ‘Jesús!’”
    Michaela: “Gesundheit in German or if you want to tease somebody say Gescheitheit… gesund bist du ! Otherwise in Nam we say God bless you !”
    Ipek: “in Turkey- we say ‘cok yasa or iyi yasa’ means long live & live well !”
    Cassiana: “In Brazil we say ’saude’ meaning ‘be healthy’.”
    Lisa Yannucci: “My Italian grandfather said, ‘a salute’.”
    Sjoerd: “In the Netherlands we say ‘Gezondheid’ or ‘Proost’.”
    Reetu: “My Indian Father say ….’Hummm Maa’… if a child sneezes we say… ‘Aaa Chhee’.”
    Akiko: “In Japan we make a sound like ‘Hakkusyon.’ One Japanese famous comedian says like: Hekkisyu! and it is a ‘cliche’ in comedy venues. After the sneezing, we do not normally say anything particular, but some adults may say ‘Daijobu?’ (Are you OK?).”
    Fernando: “In Mexico we someone sneezes it is polite to say ‘Salud’.”
    Kelmadis: “In Puerto Rico we make the sound ‘achu’ and say ‘Salud’ or ‘Dios te bendiga’ after someone else sneezes.”
    Julie: “In America we say God bless you, the theory behind that is your heart supposedly stops for a split second when you sneeze. I think I may start saying Salud. I like that word.”
    Mihaela: “In Romania, the sound we make is ‘hapciu’ (smth like…hapchew), and we either say ‘Noroc’ (Good luck) or ‘Sanatate’ (may you be healthy) afterwards.”

    Thanks Devon!

  38. Natalie Says:

    In Israel, when you sneeze, the Hebrew word is “Le-bri’ut”, means “for health”. Seems like across cultures and languages, sneezing is superstitious at best, if not religious. So if not blessing someone, one wishes health or luck or something. Very interesting.

  39. Xavier Says:

    In Catalonia, still a part of Spain but with our own different language, the answer to a sneeze is “Salut”, health. Not very original, shall I say. But since the new flu epidemic, children are taught in school to cover their mouths and noses with the elbow, instead of with their hands.

  40. Samra Says:

    When someone sneeze Muslims say Alhamdoolilah which means Thanks to God, or Praise to God.

  41. Solidad Guzman-Morales Says:

    In Mexico, or other Spanish speaking countries you may say “Salud” meaning health, or “Dios te Bendiga”, G-d bless you.

  42. nadya Says:

    in Russia when someone sneezes, they say “ap-chee” as opposed to a-choo in english… it’s weird, i go between the two.

  43. Stoneyzatiger Says:

    The correct old English phrase as I recall it, in a variant form of course is;

    one`s a wish,
    two`s a kiss,
    Three`s a disapointment.
    four times`s a letter
    five`s somethin`better.
    six is silver
    seven`s gold
    eight is a secret, never to be told.

  44. Diana Says:

    Hi there,

    I’m from Mexico City and young people sometimes tease the sneezer with “Sancho”, instead of “Salud”. Just to imply he/she’s being cheated on. Sometimes they even say “I’d call him/her if I were you”, jokingly.

  45. shimke Says:

    In NY, (English-speakers) say “God bless you”, but in such a mangled form that it was many years before I realized it meant anything — it sounded like “g’bLESHeh”. In Yiddish, my father said “gut genust” (well-sneezed!), a somewhat humorous approach unlike anything I have seen in the comments from around the world. BTW, I guess Jews are optimists (or have better doctors?). Whereas several people report that their cultures have the expression “[live] to one hundred”, the universal Yiddish equivalent is “biz hundert UN TSVANTSIK” ["to 120]! This is especially common when someone mentions someone’s age or birthday. (It happens to correspond to current medical consensus about the maximum extension of the human life-span, altho literalists will point to the early Biblical figures who lived for several centuries.) — I also recall that when my nose itched, I would be told “someone is thinking of you” (or “someone is talking about you”?) but I am not sure if this was in Brooklyn or in France.

  46. andac Says:

    In Turkey after one sneezes, we say Çok Yaşa which means Live Long, and he replies Hep Beraber which means all together.

    How is it in German???

  47. David Castillo Says:

    In Costa Rica:

    Sneeze the first time: We say “salud”
    Sneeze the second time: We say “dinero”
    Sneeze the third time: we say “amor”

  48. Maddiaz Says:

    In Hungarian it’s “Egészségedre!” (pronounced “eh-gais-shay-ged-reh”) not “Egésszégedre!”. Had a little typo there Petra. :) And it means “to your health”, as in “may it be beneficial to your health”. As a side note the noun “egészség” means both “health” and “wholeness”.
    In Japanese it is not common to use “odaijini” for when a person sneezes. It is possible that some people might use it, but I for one never heard anyone say it. All my Japanese teachers said they do not say anything after someone sneezes.
    In Romanian both “Noroc!” (pronounced “no-rok”), meaning “Good luck!”, and “Sănătate!” (pronounced “sah-nah-taa-teh”), meaning “health”. “Noroc” is also used as “cheers” when drinking.

  49. Susan Says:

    Then what do you say back in all the cultures when someone has said whatever they say when you sneeze? For example:

    “God bless you!” “Thank you!”

    or

    “Prosit!” “Tak!”

  50. Lisa Yannucci Says:

    Dave Thorne wrote:

    My Grandmother had a final line that I don’t see in your version. You may have a reason for not putting it in, so if it offends you, I apologize. It went:

    “Sneeze on Sunday your safety seek, for the devil will chase you for the rest of the week.” (She’d say “divil” for devil.)

    Thanks again, Lisa…

    Aloha,
    Dave Thorne
    (Hawaii)

  51. shimke Says:

    I’m not sure whether this also applies to sneezing, but at least when one yawns, I have read that originally you covered your mouth out of fear that your soul may escape and not find the way back. Anyone have further info on this?

  52. Jean Says:

    In breton, i can’t remember what my grandmother would say but translated, it would be “God bless you” and on the second sneeze “The Devil roasts you”…

  53. karen Says:

    When I sneeze, I say, “Excuse Me”….because I am making a disturbance and spreading my germs!!

  54. Gerima Says:

    In Eritrean (Tigrigna), if someone sneezes, people around will say “Yimharka” literally means “God bless you”.

  55. carmen Says:

    Where I was born in Italy, we usually say Salute, which means (to your health) And in some parts of france (where I studied) when someone sneezes they say a tes soins which means to your recovery or health. Soins is pronounces almost the same as souhait. I’ve also heard relatives in France say Salut, which means (health).

  56. Jetca Says:

    in the philippines, many people’s reaction to a sneeze is to assume that someone near the sneezer smells bad. sometimes when i sneeze near my wife, who is pilipina, she’ll say ‘hey i took a bath already!’ the same thing happens among her filipino friends and relatives.

  57. Charlotte Says:

    I’am a Chinese and I live in China. Actuqlly, we say nothing after someone sneezes.
    And here in China if you sneeze once, it means someone is missing you;
    If you sneeze twice, it means someone is criticizing you/saying bad things abou you; If you sneeze three times, it means you have caught a cold and you should take some medicines.^_^

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