“Gesundheit!” and “Alla Salut!” mean “Cheers!” and “God Bless You!”

The other day I wrote an entry about the customs around sneezing in different countries. I mentioned the German word Gesundheit, which is said to someone after they’ve sneezed.

I looked up Gesundheit, and found that it’s also said as a “cheers” before drinking with someone. It’s literally “to your health”.

The Gesundheit that’s said after sneezing comes from a longer phrase, Gesundheit ist besser als Krankheit, which means, “Health is better than sickness”. It’s probably rooted in the fear that someone might be sick if they’re sneezing.

All of this talk about sneezing helped me remember what my Italian-speaking grandfather used to say. He’d say, alla salut (it sounded like “ah salut”), meaning “to health”. He’d say Alla salut both after someone sneezed and as a “cheers” before drinking.

So, to all of you … Gesundheit and alla salut!

Lisa

P.S. Feel free to comment below about what’s said in your country as a cheers, and after someone sneezes.

This article was posted on Wednesday, June 7th, 2006 at 10:06 am and is filed under Cheers!, Countries & Cultures, Customs and Traditions, German, Germany, Gesundheit, Italian, Italy, Languages, Sneezing, 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.

20 Responses to ““Gesundheit!” and “Alla Salut!” mean “Cheers!” and “God Bless You!””

  1. Ray Says:

    Growing up in Hong Kong, we never said or did anything special after someone sneezed. I remember when I first came to the U.S., I was surprised when someone said, “Bless you” after I sneezed.

  2. Monique Says:

    In France, before drinking, we say “À ta/votre santé” = to your health or “À la tienne/vôtre” = to yours (meaning health) “À la bonne vôtre” = to your good health. Informally, we might say “Tchin tchin”. I’ve read somewhere that the expression comes from Chinese.

    In Occitan, we say “Santat” =health “A ta/vòstra santat” = “to your heallh

    In Spanish we say “Salud” = health
    FYI : I say “we” because I’m the three at a time!

    In Brittany, they say “Yec’hed mad” = Good health (lit. health good) or “Yec’hed mad dit/deomp” = “Good health to you (informal)/you (formal)
    the c’h in Breton is pronounced as a Gaelic ch in loch or German ch in Bach.

  3. lilis Says:

    If you are a moslem in my country, Indonesia, we commonly say ‘Alhamdulillah’ after sneezing or when we hear someone sneezes. It means ‘Thanks to the Almighty’.

  4. urban-a Says:

    Hello,

    you’r right, that we say “Gesundheit” after a “sneeze”, but before a
    drink we say “Zum Wohl” what means – and you said that allready – “to your health”

    greetings from austria!

  5. JK Says:

    In Japan nothing is said after a sneeze. I think it catches them offguard when I say something but it’s hard to break lifelong habits :)

    For cheers we say “Kanpai!”

  6. Lisa Says:

    Monique wrote me:

    Ayse told me that in Turkey they say “Şerefe” (pronounced “sherefe”), meaning “to the honor”, to say “cheers”.

    When they sneeze they’re told “Çok yaşa” = much life = long life, and they answer “sen de gör” = “you see” = “you see it” = “I wish you the same thing”, or “hep beraber” which means “all together”.

    Thanks for letting us know! -Lisa

  7. Max Says:

    Does anyone know the Hungarian response to a sneeze?

  8. Ed Gawlinski Says:

    I don’t know how to pronounce the Hungarian response, but I thnk
    Egészségedre
    is what you might say ……

    However,
    Na zdrowie
    works in Polish.

  9. Denise Says:

    and of course we say God bless you in America

  10. Chaim Katzenellenbogen Says:

    In Yiddish we most frequently say “zay gezunt” be healthy or G-d bless you.

    Check out my friends Yiddish website
    http://www.myoyvey.com

    I love his Jerry Seinfeld video and the Yiddish alphabet!

  11. Roberto Says:

    The Hungarian “Egészségedre!” is pronounced something like this:
    “egaesh-shaegaedre”

    Notice the E and É letters in the words: 5 vowels alltogether.
    They sound like as follows:
    E: like in “bad”
    É: like in “cane” or in “fame”
    Note that the closing last E is NOT muted.

    Notice “SZ” (an S followed by a Z) sounds like “s” in “system”.
    The “S” without a Z sounds like “sh” in “cash”

    In this word, the “sz” and the “s” is not uttered as “s-sh” but merges into a long-lasting “sh”.

    Etimology: Hungarian uses suffixes overwhelmingly so this long word can be sliced to its parts:

    parts:

    1. “egész” means “whole, “complete”, “unbroken”

    2. “-ség” is a suffix working like “-ness” in English (it has an É inside because the word it is suffixed to has “high” vocal harmony and the suffix must match it. If its low, the suffix would be “-ság”)

    1 and 2: “egész-ség” literally means “completeness” but in normal speech it means “health”.

    3. “-(e)d” is a suffix explaining “yours” in singular and in informal addressing as talking to friends. It has an interleaved E to break the consonant jam.

    3. “-re” is a suffix meaning “for” or “onto”. Uses an E due to high vocal harmonizing (otherwise it would be “-ra”)

    Putting it together:
    “egész-ség-ed-re” means “for you health” which is a short form of the full expression “váljék egészségedre” which means “[wish that] be this [beneficial] for your health”.

    (The formal addressing speech uses “egészségÉre” (see part 3 above) instead, meaning the same.)

    This word can be used for sneezes and for drinks as well but also often told to each other when a meal is finished.

    Warning notice on part 2:

    E and É is different and if mixed up in usage, they can modify the meaning in words and in suffixes.
    If in the suffix “-ség” you incorrectly use “E” instead of “É”, the result will be “-seg” which sounds like “shag”.
    In Hungarian this sounds very close to “segg” (sounds like “shaggg”) which means “ass”, “bum”, “buttocks”,
    and thus the meaning of the expression above would change to:
    “for your whole ass” which usually amuses Hungarians :) but is incorrect anyway.

    Hope this helps.

  12. Roberto Says:

    A correction for the previous comment (I mistyped, sorry):

    Correctly:
    “egész-ség-ed-re” means “for youR health”

  13. Kelly Says:

    Something a bit different on the topic, my friends and I, in High School and college created different, non religious, things to say after one another’s sneezes. I came up with “Ge-weiner-schnizel” (pronounced “guh-viner-schnitzel”), just a pun on “Gesundheit”. I cannot, however, remember what others said.

    Mine has stuck with me, though, and I have to explain it every time, and it always gets a chuckle.

    This and the other post has been extremely informative and really eye-opening. I’m still surprised that superstitious Japan doesn’t have folklore surrounding sneezes. I did find this on Yahoo! Answers:
    (link: http://sg.answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20070923194834AADdRLJ )

    “dareka uwasa shiteru” , “uwasa sareterunjyanai?” or “____(your nema)san uwasa sareterunjya naidesuka?”

    Japaneses say, a sneeze is a sign that someone is talking about you.
    That is why after sneeze people say “dareka uwasa shiteru”
    which means “someone talking about you”

  14. Kelly Says:

    Oh, I forgot to mention that I am an English-speaking American in the US. (Probably unnecessary to point out)

  15. Valeri Astanoff Says:

    In addition to Monique’s post about sneeze comment in France, I noticed that “à tes souhaits” (“to your wishes”) is often said (or “à vos souhaits” if you say “vous” instead of “tu”).

  16. Janneke van Engeland Says:

    In the Netherlands we say “gezondheid” after a sneeze. It sounds pretty much the same as “gesundheit”, like they in Germany say. Before a drink it’s usual to say “proost”, but some people also say that after someone has sneezed.

  17. Mary Says:

    Does anyone know why a sneeze stops if someone says bless you before the sneeze occurs? If anyone has an answer, please email it to me at mary.able1@gmail.com
    Thanks

  18. The ridder Says:

    Das ist wirklich ein interessanter Artikel

  19. Bob Says:

    Thanks for the original post! Growing up in the 70’s in Pennsylvania with a part German grandmother, my recollection is that she used to say “Besser den krankheit” when someone sneezed, and she said it meant “Better than sickness” but this is the first confirmation I’ve had of that! So gratifying to know I’m not nuts! Perhaps she was completing another’s “Geshundheit” (and she said den vs. als) but this scratches a 40 year old itch!

  20. Lois Says:

    My Jewish parents would never say “Gd Bless You.” Instead, the first sneeze was “Guzundheit” (Good health), the second was, “Vachs en zulsta. I don’t remember what it means. The third sneeze was the Yiddish equivalent of “Go to hell, you’ve got a cold.” “The beginning is Gey en dreirdt” but I can’t remember the “You’ve got a cold” part in Yiddish and would be happy is someone could tell me.

Leave a Reply