I've heard that goodbye comes from God be with you. Is that true? If so how did it become good? Did goodbye always have the same meaning it has now?


5 Answers 5


The OED also says that this is a contracted form of "God be with you", and explains the God-to-good transition thusly (emphasis mine):

A contraction of the phrase God be with you (or ye); see GOD n. 8. The substitution of good- for God may have been due to association with such formulas of leave-taking as good day, good night, etc.

In a quote from 1659, we still have "God":

But mum for that, his strength will scarce supply His Back to the Balcona, so God b' wy.

And then by 1694, we have transitioned to "good":

He flings up his tail..and so bids us good-b'wy.


The Merriam-webster confirms what you are writing in your question:

Etymology: alteration of God be with you Date: circa 1580

Note (Common Errors in English Usage):


All of these spellings are legitimate; but if you want to go with the most popular one, it’s “goodbye.”
This spelling has the advantage of recalling the word’s origins in phrases like “God be with ye.”

  • "Am I right" appears to be going down a similar path.
    – RegDwigнt
    Commented Aug 20, 2010 at 16:41
  • 1
    @RegDwight: What has "Am I right?" been modified to nowadays?
    – Mitch
    Commented Apr 20, 2011 at 14:40
  • 2
    @Mitch: amirite.
    – RegDwigнt
    Commented Apr 20, 2011 at 14:51
  • Soon to be… amrite? The first person pronoun seems to be unstressed sometimes outright elided.
    – Kevin Li
    Commented Oct 13, 2016 at 1:44
  • Same for "yaright", *are you all alright" as seen in Extras with Ricky Gervais, init? That's not the same! "b'wy" would seem like it's shortened primarily for writting
    – vectory
    Commented Sep 28, 2019 at 22:21

There are only two forms of farewell: “Good-by” and “Good night.” Never say “Au revoir” unless you have been talking French, or are speaking to a French person. Never interlard your conversation with foreign words or phrases when you can possibly translate them into English; and the occasions when our mother tongue will not serve are extremely rare.

From: Chapter III. ‘Greetings’ in Etiquette By Emily Post. 1922

Wiktionary tells us that the hyphenated variant, good-by, and the solid compound, goodby, are dated which everyone will agree. It also offers a more comprehensive list of variants that might be of interest to some.

Godby, Godby'e, Godbwye, God b'w'y, God bwy yee, God buy you, God be wi' you [“God be with ye”] each a progressively shorter contraction of God be with you.

Variants Between 1400 and 1700

Gid be with you (1400-1499)
God be with thee (1400-1499)
God be with you (1500-1700)
God be with yee; God bwy ye; God bwy; (1576-1600)
God be with ye (1576-1650)
God b'wee; God b'wy; God b'w'you; God b'wi'you (1601- 1625)
God buy ye; God buy you; (1601-1625)
God buy (1601-1650)
God be w'you (1626-1650)
God-buy (1651-1675)
God by ye; God-buy (1651-1675)
God bi wi'you (1651-1675)
God b'w'y' (1676-1700)
Godbuy (1676-1700)

The above is but a clumsy sample, I recommend visitors and enthusiasts to visit the complete table in the link below. According to the author, who painstakingly traced the lexical history of goodbye, the term Good (it remained capitalised) first appeared in 1676-1700 in the forms of:

Good b'w'y, Good b'we; Good b'wy to ye; Good b'uy to you; Good by t'ye;
Good by t'yee; Good-by

Source: p99; Diachronic Pragmatics: Seven case studies in English
illocutionary development
By Leslie K. Arnovick

  • 1
    Interlard for the win.
    – Davo
    Commented May 4, 2017 at 12:10

goodbye, good bye, good-by, 1590s, from godbwye (1570s), itself a contraction of God be with ye (late 14c.), influenced by good day, good evening, etc.

  • 3
    This doesn't add anything to the discussion. All this is better said in the accepted answer. Commented May 17, 2013 at 9:08

Quoting Urban dictionary.com:

kthxbye: shortening of "k thx bye". The K is short for OK, which is short for oll korrect, which is a facetious alteration of All Correct. thx is short for thanx which is a facetious alteration of thanks which is short for thank you. Bye is short for goodbye, which is an alteration of alteration of God be with you. kthxbye is the pinnacle of English's advancement, shortening All correct, Thank you, God be with you. into seven lowercase letters.

  • 5
    Urban Dictionary isn't the most reliable of sources. Some people would also claim that "kthxbye" more closely resembles the nadir rather than the pinnacle of the English language. You might want to consider finding a different source altogether.
    – kitukwfyer
    Commented Aug 20, 2010 at 20:00
  • 5
    The answer doesn't explain the origin of goodbye, which is what the OP asked.
    – apaderno
    Commented Sep 5, 2010 at 8:21
  • 1
    +1 for mentioning lolcat, the pinnacle of english language.
    – user4951
    Commented Dec 17, 2011 at 4:28
  • 2
    I took "pinnacle" to be tongue-in-cheek. You have to admit that 8 words in 7 lowercase letters is quite the "achievement"!
    – meustrus
    Commented Jul 25, 2014 at 21:56

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