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I just heard an expression while watching a TV series yesterday. Someone just died and they said:

He is gone for good

I googled it and found that "for good" means "forever" in this context. But it still sounds odd to me to describe something unfortunate this way.

Is there a deeper reason behind this expression?

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I can see why this would sound unusual, given its similarity to the expression "for the good". Still, I assure you, as a native speaker, that oddness didn't even occur to me until you asked your question. In context, I simply interpreted "for good" to mean "forever." But you've pointed out something rather peculiar indeed. – J.R. Aug 12 '12 at 2:46
up vote 6 down vote accepted

For good simply means forever or for good and all.

  • forever, permanently forever; permanently
    I finally left home for good.
    They tried to repair it many times before they fixed it for good.

  • for good (British, American & Australian informal) also for good and all
    (American informal) forever
    I'm leaving for good this time.

  • permanently or forever
    Now she says she's leaving him for good.

This of course differs from for good as opposed to for evil.

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Interesting -- I've never heard of "for good and all." But I wonder how that expression came to mean forever? – JAM Aug 12 '12 at 3:23
You've given an explanation that is general reference. Despite it being the accepted answer, I don't see any explanation of "a deeper meaning behind this expression". – Canis Lupus Jan 30 '15 at 6:41

I always understood the full expression to be 'For good or ill'. In other words, regardless of his, her or its fortune. Now often the word 'good' is a mispronunciation of 'God' (as in good-bye - God be with ye). That adds quite a different slant on the subject.

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Somehow English "for good" reminds me of German endgültig which also has the meaning of "forever". But I think it would be quite a task to show that there might be a relationship between the German word element -gültig and English good. It would be necessary to see whether there are old variants of modern German endgültig in Old Saxon, Old Low Franconian/Frankish (Dutch), Old Frisian etc. An old variant of -gültig might have become similar to good and then been replaced by "good". But I don't think that it is possible to verify such an evolution. The written instances necessary for verifying such an evolution are too sparse.

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