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The Interesting Origin of the Term ‘Goodbye’

Some English words and phrases have been in use for such a long time that most people have long since forgotten where they came from. This is the case of “goodbye”, despite the fact that the word is so very commonly used today. Knowing how the word came into being gives the term extra meaning that many people might find fascinating.

In the 1500’s and earlier, a phrase was used when people would take leave of one another. The phrase was “God be with ye”. We would say ‘God be with you’ today. The phrase was a parting prayer, though a brief one.

As with many phrases that are that old, the term was later abbreviated to “God b’wi ye”. By the end of the 1600’s, the phrase was abbreviated even more and became “God b’ye” or sometimes ‘Godbuy’. Still later, “good” was substituted for “God” in the phrase. This was most likely because of similar terms that were in use at the time, such as “good night”.

Today, we are left with goodbye or good-bye. The hyphen is still acceptable, though it doesn’t need to be used. The apostrophes that were originally used to signify the abbreviations have been lost through time.

Thus, when one person says ‘goodbye’ to another person, they are offering a parting prayer; May God be with you. How many people do you suppose realize that they are saying a prayer everytime they say goodbye? Be honest; did you know it?

I must say that I love word and phrase origins as interesting as this one, though it is surprisingly simple. This research was spurred by a friend who is a pastor and missionary.

What do you think?

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Written by Rex Trulove

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  1. Very interesting post. I also like sometimes to search the origins of the spoken words, even though in my line of work (translation and writing) and my old line of of work (nursing), the origins that I research the most are geared towards the medical and or nursing type words.

    • True. I mentioned that I got the idea to write about this from a friend who is a pastor and missionary. What I didn’t mention is that he and his family are missionaries in Japan. There are a huge number of Buddhists there, but few Christians, with the result that most people have not even heard the good word of God. However, the people there who speak English, and that is a large segment of the population, know what goodbye means and where it came from, so they purposely use the term, bye-bye.

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