I don't mean when someone sneezes or when someone's been kind to you, but in other situations.

Like, when someone is enjoying a lot of luck, fortune or doing staggeringly well in something.

Or when someone is wonderful at a task and you admire them at lot. So, you want to get to know them better through talking to them, either directly or via online messaging. However, they are often quite busy and you're hoping they have time for you, but they turn out not to have any. You can say: "(It's a pity, but) bless them."

Besides, is it the same meaning as "wish you good luck"?

  • I'm not familiar with this behaviour; It might be specific to the region you live in, the dialect you speak, or the subculture you are a part of. If you could specify those, it would be helpful. – user867 Jul 10 '14 at 2:37
  • Oh, maybe this is just a UK thing? (where I am) – user76935 Jul 10 '14 at 2:41
  • I'm British and don't recognise most of those usages. "Bless him" and so on (sometimes shortened to just "bless") is usually expressing affection. – Rupe Jul 10 '14 at 10:09
  • Maybe it's a younger generation thing or just because of the area... – user76935 Jul 10 '14 at 14:00

A lot of words or phrases move away from the literal meaning and this literal meaning is bleached or ignored but instead the focus is on the function to express a kind of attitude. Some people call this pragmaticalisation; the phrase serves a pragmatic function of expressing an attitude. Out 'good-bye' or bye started life as 'God be with you' - which originally invoked a blessing on the other person. And people typically invoked a blessing when they parted, so it became associated with leave-taking and the literal meaning was forgotten. We can also think about how 'thank you' often functions not to thank someone today.

'Bless you' has also undergone pragmaticalisation. I would say that 'bless you' expresses a degree of fondness for some people who have disappointed you. In my own usage, it is similar to how I might say of say of children, 'They are uncontrollable, bless their hearts.' I would imagine that it started life as an actual blessing (as mentioned by bobtato). You are typically fond of the people you want to bless, but the usage mentioned, the fond attitude is preserved and the actual blessing forgotten.


The phrase expresses a wish for God to be kind to someone. As such, it is used in its explicitly religious sense (a priest saying "bless you, my child"); to express gratitude, especially for actions that would be considered virtuous in Christian terms; in sympathy for someone's misfortune, particularly when the misfortune is an "act of God"; and, idiomatically, as a sort of patronising sentiment toward someone excessively innocent.

I've never heard anyone say "bless you" to someone who's had exceptional good luck-- that's almost the opposite of how it's usually used, so perhaps that's an idiomatic expression.


It definitely expresses a wish for God to be kind to someone - or his favor to be upon someone or to express gratitude or in sympathy for loss or misfortune (meaning you hope things get better). Never heard it expressed as response to someone who has disappointed you. In Christian circles the blessing is the intent and it is never forgotten.

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