I used to work at a grocery store. When bidding farewell to customers, my coworkers would often use phrases such as "Have a nice day," "Enjoy your day," and the like.

One particular phrase that seemed to be common was "Have a good one" (where "a good one" implies "a good day").

Since working there, I've heard people saying this in a variety of locations, from retail stores to restaurants to customer service helpdesks. I've never noticed any sort of correlation between age and the usage of the phrase; however, I was wondering about its history. Is this something that came about relatively recently?

(I've tagged this as I live in the US and that's where I've heard the phrase.)

  • These expressions are used in social situations where, on the one hand, politeness requires that something be said, but on the other hand, there is nothing appropriate to say. The technical term for such utterances is phatic communication. Whether you think they are trite or not is irrelevant. They serve their purpose in society. – gary Aug 8 '11 at 17:50
  • Thanks for the technical term. As for your second comment, perhaps you misunderstood. I wasn't attempting to comment on whether or not these expressions are trite; I just wanted to know the origins of the phrase "Have a good one." – NickAldwin Aug 8 '11 at 18:13
  • I remember saying "Have a good one" when I was working on Eleuthera in the Bahamas in 1963 and immediately wondering if it was understood which is why it sticks in my mind. Maybe I invented it or conveniently forgot where I first heard it. They say a bad memory is the secret to originality. – Fred Sep 4 '12 at 21:47
  • Apollo 11 Launch "Ok Neil, have a good one." – Zv_oDD Aug 2 '14 at 0:25

This is, as you noted, a very American idiomatic phrase which apparently dates from the 1970s. One dictionary includes the phrase in its definition of good, but notes it is American English. An idiom dictionary further refers to the phrase as a cliche. Interestingly, the only idiomatic definition they give is from the McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs.

One should be cautious when using this phrase, however. A blog found that the British explanation of the origins of the phrase were:

Have a nice day

Meaning: A salutation, ostensibly to offer good wishes. In fact a banal and insincere form of words given to anyone and everyone. Evidence of the meaninglessness of the sentiment is the fact that it is even used last thing at night when the opportunity to have a nice day has all but disappeared.

Origin: US origin - around 1970s.

The blogger notes that British people may construe this parting phrase as highly sarcastic, so it may be best to keep its use to the American English arena.

  • I have definitely heard it outside of the US (specifically when I was living in NZ), but I cannot remember if it was used specifically by American speakers. – nico Aug 8 '11 at 18:00

Having grown up with that phrase in Colorado, I know how it was used there: In the context of having a good run (down the ski slope). For a long time, it seemed unique to Colorado. Although I lived elsewhere, I would only hear it used (with pleasure) when I returned to visit Colorado, although even there it was being used more and more often outside of the original common usage. I read online it comes from military history relating to paratroopers heading out of the plane and that having a good "one" meant landing.

It's not appropriate, in my opinion, to use the idiom related to everyday affairs such as leaving the grocery check-out counter, which makes it equivalent to "have a nice day." It belongs to special events: a ski run, a landing, a race, a game, a date, etc., where the "one" is specific.


The Concise New Partridge Dictionary of Slang (2007) says:

have a good one goodbye. Slightly cooler than urging someone to 'have a good day' US, 1984

The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms (1997) says:

have a nice day Also, have a good day; have a good one. A cordial goodbye ... For example, Thanks for the order, have a nice day, or See you next week — have a good day, or The car's ready for you — have a good one. These expressions have become synonymous with a polite farewll. The first originated about 1920 but, like the variants, became widespread only after 1950.

The Grammarphobia Blog says:

The earliest appearance is from the headline of an article about Washington’s Birthday in the Feb. 10, 1981, issue of the Spokane (Wash.) Daily Chronicle: “Whatever, George, / Have a good one!”

The Saturday Review discusses its rising popularity (probably 1982):

As I said, Have a nice day seems to be dying out, at least around here. What we hear increasingly often is “Have a good one,“ spoken usually by young men. “Have a good one” is flip, cool, and cryptic. “Have a nice day,” wishy-washy or not, was specific by comparison.

Here's a couple of snippets of its use, both possibly from 1986. Here's more on "have a good day" and have a nice day" by The Grammarphobia Blog.


The Oxford English Dictionary shows "Have a good day" as far back as the 1200's ... then shortened to just "Good day" over time. (Similarly for "Good afternoon", "Good morning" and so on.)

  • This does not answer the question. – MetaEd Sep 26 '12 at 4:28

In 1962 I & my wife took over a leather shop arts & craft gallery in the Topanga Shopping Center, Topanga Canyon in southern California just north of LA. The shop had been started by Peter Presnell in 1958. I'm sure many will remember the name of the shop "Christoons". While on a trip Big Sur, Peter asked me if I & Leslie would like to take over the Christoons, that he was tired of dealing with it, and wanted to move on to something new. Leslie and I felt honored and excepted the offer.

I used the shop as a studio to build and showcase my & Peter's handmade luggage. Leslie, my wife, made leather clothing. Many craft-persons sold the work through the gallery as well.

I work there seven days a week. I had a house on the beach in Point Doom. Where were friends and many actors who hung out there during the course of the day & night, The shopping Center was also a hangout for the hippies, artists, actors, musicians, craft-persons, and travelers of the hippy set. It was at the time the crossroads of the Hippy moment in southern California.

The term "have a good day" was the phrase of the times. Everyone used it, I had to hear it so many times during the course of the day that I nearly went mad with the boredom of the phrase. So, after a while I started to return "Have a good day" with "Have A Good One" meaning have a good whatever got you off. Now I hear it everywhere I go, from every lifestyle of people.

.... and so for those who never past through Topanga canyon during the 60's, that's the real story. Have A Good One.


I would agree the saying originated in the 70s as used by drug addicts who took and sold LSD and it was meant to wish the person taking the drug would have a good trip. Therefore the saying "have a good one" as you would not say "have a good trip" to draw attention to what you were talking about.

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