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From what I googled around "Take Care" is short for "Take Care of yourself". Do share if there's some other meaning/ origin/ usage.

How/ when and where did this phrase originate?

Why would you ask someone to "take care of themselves"? Wouldn't they automatically?

Was it because journeys/ travel back in the day were risky and more prone to danger/ injury/ accident/ highway attacks?

closed as off-topic by Edwin Ashworth, Drew, NVZ, Scott, jimm101 Oct 16 '16 at 16:43

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The songs Button up your overcoat and Take Good Care of Yourself both express the idea that the person addressed has an extra reason for 'taking care' because the singer cares about them.

The use of 'take care', even when it's said to people who are not especially close to the speaker, carries this implication of 'take care of yourself, I want to meet you again'; in other words the speaker is well-disposed towards the person addressed.

The answer to one of the OP's questions is 'no', people do not automatically take care of themselves. They do risky and careless things all the time like crossing busy streets without waiting for the lights, getting drunk, underdressing in cold weather, failing to apply sunblock in sunny weather, taking shortcuts down dark alleys in dodgy parts of town, driving too fast, using mobile phones when driving... The list is endless.

The phrase is a secular equivalent to 'God be with you' which is shortened to 'goodbye' and has, therefore, lost most of its meaning. 'Take care' is also, perhaps, more appropriate to a culture of self-reliance where you are expected to protect yourself. I get the feeling that it's American in origin which fits with that self-reliant idea.

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May I suggest that take care is a modern derivative of the archaic fare thee well which Wiktionary informs us, citing Shakespeare, is to bid someone goodbye, farewell . This would link to the OP and make sense of a time (early 17th century) when journeys, long or short, meant setting out on foot or otherwise undertaking a journey by horse-drawn carriage, or by riding a horse into situations fraught with danger and the unknown.

1602 William Shakespeare, All's Well That Ends Well, Act 2, Sc.1

I must not hear thee; fare thee well, kind maid.

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