There is an Urban Dictionary entry saying

Of Old English origin, shortening of "Good Speed," and contrary to popular belief has nothing to do with God. People would say this to others who were leaving on a long and perilous journey, wishing them success, but more importantly wishing for their return.

Edited: Can it be used without invoking any nuance of religiosity ?

Well guys, I did check the references and did find the explanations which ended up becoming the answer for the question. What I meant was to get an educated opinion on the usage of the term in modern times.

How a question with so many votes gets put on hold is beyond me.

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    No it is not a religious term, but it carries a religious connotation: Godspeed (interj.) also God speed, by late 14c., "(I wish that) God (may) grant you success," from God + speed (v.) in its old sense of "prosper, grow rich, succeed." Specifically as a salutation by mid-15c. Also in Middle English as an adverb, "quickly, speedily" (early 14c.); the then-identically spelled God and good seem to be mixed up in this word. From late 13c. as a surname. He may bidde god me spede is found in a text from c. 1300. etymonline.com/index.php?term=godspeed
    – user66974
    Jul 5, 2016 at 9:16
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    you are actually citing the UD
    – user66974
    Jul 5, 2016 at 9:22
  • 23
    FYI, the Urban Dictionary can be a useful way to look up informal meanings, particularly for novel or very new phrases/neologisms, but it's not a reliable reference for the English Language, in part because it's entirely crowd sourced, and is thus as reliable as, say, a YouTube comment thread. Jul 5, 2016 at 9:23
  • 2
    It is a set phrase which has lost its original religious origin and meaning. Just a way to wish success or a good fortune.
    – user66974
    Jul 5, 2016 at 9:36
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    Hello, SurvMach. Please make sure you cite reference or dictionary definition when you ask a question. I edited your post. If you leave such a short post, it will be automatically flagged by the system.
    – user140086
    Jul 5, 2016 at 11:45

1 Answer 1


"God speed you" is an example of a term with religious origins. Whether that makes it a "religious term" depends on what your definition of a "religious term" is. It's pretty archaic now.

Perhaps surprisingly, it's not (originally) wishing "speed" to the person - it's from the old English word "spede" which means "success" (and from which "speed" is derived). So it's saying "May god give success to you".


There are several phrases in common usage which have religious origins - often they now exist in a contracted form which isn't obviously recognisable as religious. For example, "goodbye", which is a contracted form of "God be with you".


I think that most people wouldn't say that "goodbye" is a "religious term" (again, dependent on whatever that actually means), despite its religious origins. Because "god speed you" clearly contains the word "god", it's more likely to be described as religious, I would say.

  • 9
    I would say being archaic makes it mostly a "religious term". It's not regularly used in ordinary contemporary speech, so unless the speaker is just someone who always uses archaic speech as a hobby/quirk/whatever, you can assume there's a reason they chose to use it, and I suspect most people would assume that reason is related to the letters G-O-D. Jul 5, 2016 at 16:57
  • @R.. Speaking as someone who uses archaic speech as a hobby, I don't think most people who do know and use this word would intend it as a religious sentiment.
    – barbecue
    Jul 5, 2016 at 23:43
  • @barbecue: I explicitly excluded speakers who use archaic speech as a hobby in my comment. For you, there are other most-plausible reasons. For someone who just says "godspeed" without otherwise using archaic language, not so much. Jul 5, 2016 at 23:51
  • @R.. my attempt at humor may have disguised my true point. I do not believe that the majority of people who would use this word would intend it in a specifically religious manner. I doubt that the relevant Japanese documentary filmmaker and Canadian post-rock band had religion in mind.
    – barbecue
    Jul 5, 2016 at 23:55

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