Goodbye means “God Be With Ye”

February 1, 2012 at 2:00 am 8 comments

By Chad Upton | Editor

Many words we use today are twisted versions of words used long ago. In fact, we can often watch words get twisted in our own lifetime. Technology is having a huge impact on the way we use language and will shape words we know into words that we don’t recognize. Thanks to technology, this transformation will be visible for future generations to study.

Thanks to the written word, we can study the evolution of the words we know as normal. Goodbye is a very common word, but it’s actually a contraction — it was a whole sentence 500 years ago. The first written usage of goodbye is from a 1573 letter written Gabriel Harvey. “To requite your [gallon] of godbwyes, I regive you a pottle of howdyes.”

Today, saying “bye” has the same basic meaning as “goodbye” since we’ve completely lost the original meaning of the phrase. Really, we’re just saying “be with ye” which doesn’t really make any sense. Etymologists believe a similar situation lead to “good” replacing “god” in that phrase too, people lost the sense of where the phrase came from and what its original meaning was so there was nothing to shape the way it was said.

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photo: knegtel (cc)

sources: TheFreeDictionary.com, Dictionary.com, Etymonline.com

Entry filed under: History and Origins. Tags: , , , , , .

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8 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Wendy  |  February 1, 2012 at 8:07 am

    Thank you for this.
    When I listen to a story teller from another continent, I find it to be intriguing and emotionally moving like that of a sonnet. I believe one of the anxieties of the North American culture is the confusion around urban language, in part creating a harried state. Teller doesn’t know where to start, how to fill or tie together his/her masterpiece when “listener” is checking watch, tapping toe and looking off at next task and text. So the art of communication and beautiful story told here is sadly, also being lost.

    Reply
    • 2. Dave  |  February 1, 2012 at 2:09 pm

      The Spanish word “adios” has the same meaning. It’s a shortened version of “via con dios”, or “go with God”.

      Reply
  • 3. Jen  |  February 2, 2012 at 2:44 pm

    I always wondered if that was what goodbye meant, but always forgot to look it up. Thanks!

    Reply
  • 4. Gah  |  May 12, 2012 at 12:14 pm

    Thank you so much for this instructive post!!! Never knew about it. I learned something good today

    Reply
  • 5. Neil  |  July 26, 2012 at 10:22 pm

    This one really blew me away!

    Chad, you have an incredible knack for these!

    ALSO: HOW DID I NOT SUBSCRIBE BEFORE?? Just added myself.

    Reply
    • 6. wendy  |  July 27, 2012 at 1:03 am

      Well, it’s about time, Neil!
      Ditto! I LOVE Chad’s site, don’t know why I don’t receive newposts anymore. assumed you and Chad decided to go out at the same time! Will have tolookinto this!
      God be with you…both! xoz~ wendy

      Reply
  • 7. It'sme  |  May 8, 2013 at 3:07 pm

    And Seeya mean Satan knows where you are ^^

    Reply
  • 8. Where’s the good in goodbye? | SUPERRISKA  |  June 9, 2015 at 6:40 pm

    […] a salutation in parting and it’s actually a contraction of God be with ye. And according to this source, goodbye was used as a whole sentences 500 years ago and was found to be firstly used in a […]

    Reply

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