Legends behind the expression "Bless You" when someone sneezes

It is very common to say "Bless you" when someone sneezes around you, but does anyone really know why do you do this? Are you scaring the devils away from the sneezer? Do you consider the act of sneezing so painful that you pray for well being of the sneezer? Some question, however simple they might sound, do not have a concrete answer. Similarly there is no 100% authentic reason behind this expression. Don't be surprised when I tell you that we have been using this expression since at least 77 AD. Nobody really knows why, however a number of possible explanations do exist.

Protective charm against evil spirits or Satan

1. At one time people believed that an explosive sneeze could thrust your soul out of your body. By saying "Bless you", you would protect or shield the temporarily vulnerable soul from Satan. It was more of a charm which would shield the soul just long enough for it to regain the full fledged protection of body.

2. A similar in concept but opposite to the above explanation was the belief that a person sneezes when Satan or evil spirits leave your body. Again, "Bless you" was a protective charm but in this case, it was uttered to ward off the re-entry of the evil spirit in one's body.

3. Many people believed that sneezing opened your body to invasion by the Devil or evil spirits, or that sneezing was your body's effort to force out an invading evil spirit. Thus, "bless you" or "God bless you" is used as a sort of shield against evil.

Medical reasons

1. Another explanation holds that the custom originally began as an actual blessing. Gregory I became Pope in 590. It was the same time when a horrendous plague threat was reaching Rome. In hopes of fighting off the disease, he ordered unending prayer and parades of chanters through the streets. At the time, sneezing was thought to be an early symptom of the plague. The blessing ("God bless you!") became a common effort to halt the disease.

2. Some people also believed that the heart stops when you sneeze, and the phrase "bless you" is a charm/blessing/prayer which is meant to ensure the return of life or to encourage your heart to continue beating.

3. A similar version says that your soul can be thrown out from your body when you sneeze, hence, a prayer or blessing in the form of "Bless You".

Recognition of good luck

1. Contrary to the above, some people thought that sneezes were themselves lucky (many people still believe this) or foretold the good fortune that was on way to the sneezer. "Bless You" was a recognition of this incoming good luck and probably even an attempt to attract a bit towards himself.

Response to a misunderstood act or event

1. It is also possible that the phrase began simply as a response for an act of event (sneezing) that wasn't well understood at the time the phrase was first used.

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Comments 15 comments

christinekv profile image

christinekv 8 years ago from Washington

It's probably been less than 10 years since I first heard about these things behind the phrase "God bless you" and I think it's great you put it on here since if it took me more than 3 decades, I'm sure I'm not alone. It's interesting stuff (and you did include additional details/info I had not been aware of). Nice job.


Stooge profile image

Stooge 8 years ago Author

Christin, I see that you have visited a couple of my hubs. This is so satisfying. Bless You !! :-)


aeman 8 years ago

I didn't even know the history at all behind why people say bless you after sneezing. Your hubs are really interesting.


robie2 profile image

robie2 8 years ago from Central New Jersey

Very interesting stuff-- maybe it is also that people used to die from colds and pneumonia and that a sneeze was the first sign of getting sick sooooooo a blessing was in order to ward off the grim reaper--dunno--just a thought:-)


Stooge profile image

Stooge 8 years ago Author

Thanks Aeman and Robie.

Aeman, glad you liked my hubs. I am a real novice at blogging and just completed my first week of blogging.

Robie, yours is a real thought provoking idea. It is just that none of the historians feels that way, so was not included. In fact, on second thoughts, this may well be the reason for it is the most simple and logical explanation I have heard behind the phrase. Honestly, even I don't know :-)


tbelgard profile image

tbelgard 8 years ago from The rainy but beautiful Pacific Northwest

Good hub Stooge—interesting and informative. It reminds me of the Seinfeld episode where George breaks up a marriage by saying "bless you". Ha ha.


Stooge profile image

Stooge 8 years ago Author

Have not seen that episode. Probably, George was trying to put a protective charm on the lady's heart.


NJoG profile image

NJoG 8 years ago from Tigard, Oregon

Stooge, anything but that!  Good HUB!  I was baptized a Mick many moons ago, decided to explore why the Catholic Church and all the other churches chose to have their feast days/special days on days that were of the Pagan calendar ... I'm still thinking about all that stuff.

You are so bright and brilliant!  I enjoy each of your articles.  Keep your stuff coming, please, I'm hungry for more!


Stooge profile image

Stooge 8 years ago Author

Wow.. I didn't know feast days were held on days from pagan calendar. Though, I don't know much about christianity, my Da Vinchi Code reading tells me that church was against everything pagan. So, still cant make sense of that.

Thanks a lot for reading my hubs. I feel honoured by your comments and appreciation. Bless you :-)


NJoG profile image

NJoG 8 years ago from Tigard, Oregon

Stooge, thanks for joining my fan club as well. You are refreshingly brilliant. Thank you so much for that. Thanks for the blessing, and bless you, too, Stooge, may you always enjoy success in each of your endeavors.

I'm no expert on the feast days of the church being same as pagan calendar, but, I'm an ole Mick, and after not enough research yet, have found the ole pagan days to mysteriously coincide with those special days of celebration of the church.

I love your hubs, you are just so bright!

~Nan


JYOTI KOTHARI profile image

JYOTI KOTHARI 7 years ago from Jaipur

Hi Stooge,

Sneezing is seen as an unlucky symptom in India. Look! How it differs from culture to culture.

Anyway, you have brought forward a wel acted but less known issue.

I am missing you in the forum.

Thumbs up!!

Jyoti Kothari


JYOTI KOTHARI profile image

JYOTI KOTHARI 7 years ago from Jaipur

Hi Stooge,

Sneezing is seen as an unlucky symptom in India. Look! How it differs from culture to culture.

Anyway, you have brought forward a wel acted but less known issue.

I am missing you in the forum.

Thumbs up!!

Jyoti Kothari



Tiffinny Donzelwits 2 years ago

I think this website needs to find more information on the topics they say they'll inform us the people about.


John 14 months ago

Lovely images $$$$$

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