Sneeze Responses

What to say if someone sneezes instead of God Bless You.

Humanists, atheists and other assorted non-religious people have a problem with sneezes. We sneeze just like everyone else. That’s not the problem.  The problem is what to say when someone sneezes that doesn't invoke a god we don’t believe in.

Bless you or God bless you is the idiomatic expression most often used in American English to respond to a sneeze. But since we don’t believe in gods or godly blessings, we don’t really want to say it. But saying, “gosh, I hope you aren't coming down with a cold and if you do, I hope you get over it quickly and in the meantime, please cover your nose and mouth when you sneeze to minimize disease transmission” is a bit wordy.

So what is a good heathen to do?  What can we say instead when someone sneezes? Have no fear, Wikipedia is here – to rescue you and provide some alternatives from around the world. (See:  Now the problem with this list is that a distressing number of languages and places around the world use some variant of “god bless you” as the standard response to a sneeze.

The good news is that there are some really good options available.  Here are 8 of my favorites in no particular order. Feel free to choose one – either in English or in the original language – like the Persian one. You are welcome for solving this problem.

  • Albanian Shëndet (shuhn-det) "Health!"
  • Afrikaans Gesondheid "Health!" (note this is from the German of the same – and has many variations)
  • Bangla Jeebo "Live or live long."
  • Hawaiian Kihe, a mauli ola, or simply Ola "Sneeze, and you shall live", or simply "live"
  • Khmer ស្បើយ (S'baoi) "Fast recovery."
  • Ladino Vivas, or Crescas after a second sneeze. "May you live," or "May you grow" after a second sneeze
  • Luganda Bbuka "Recover."
  • Persian عافیت باشه (Afiat Bahsheh). "May Cleanliness/Purity be bestowed upon you or may it be for your health."


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I've made it practice to not say anything, just as I not react to other reflex responses, such as flatus, yawning, and burping. :) It's only natural. Why treat it with any special attention?

  3. You have such an interesting blog. Thanks for sharing, I enjoyed reading your posts. All the best for your future blogging journey.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...