One of the most popular words in the English language, it’s said daily without so much as a second thought. Despite how common the farewell greeting is, however, few are aware that “goodbye” actually finds its origin in a simple parting prayer.
How can every goodbye “begin” with God? Unknown to most, the word’s history begins in the 1400s when a rather popular parting prayer first appeared in Middle English: “God be with you.” Over a period of about three hundred years, a series of contractions gradually shortened the phrase until we arrived with our Modern English version of goodbye.
• Gid be with you (1400-1499)
• God be with you (1500-1700)
• God-buy (1651-1675)
• God by ye (1651-1675)
• God bi wi’you (1651-1675)
• God b’w’y’ (1676-1700)
• Godbuy (1676-1700)
The first recorded use of goodbye comes in a letter written by Gabriel Harvey the year 1573.
“To requite your gallonde [gallon] of godbwyes, I regive you a pottle of howdyes.”
In 1659, Samuel Pepys wrote a letter in which he still used the phrase with God.
“But mum for that, his strength will scarce supply His Back to the Balcona, so God b’wy.”
However, by the year 1694 the phrase transitioned to use good instead with an example found in the writings of English poet John Cleveland.
“He flings up his tail..and so bids us good-b’wy.”
How did the phrase eventually come to include “good” instead of God? Over time, the original meaning of goodbye was gradually lost and easily influenced by the phrases “good night” and “good day.” This lead to God being substituted with “good.” So remember every time you say goodbye, the origin of the word is actually a blessing!