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It is common knowledge that Yours sincerely is the phrase used to end a formal letter that is sent to a particular person. And Yours faithfully is used at the end of a formal letter beginning with "Dear Sir" or "Dear Madam".

What's the origin of the phrases and why are they used this way? Why isn't it the other way round, i.e. Yours sincerely for an unknown recipient and Yours faithfully for a particular person?

Thank you!

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    Why did you not include what your search engines and dictionaries told you about that, please? – Robbie Goodwin Feb 14 '18 at 23:13
  • This is the question I have wanted to find an answer to for a long time. But search engines and dictionaries give a lot of information on how to use the phrases but not their origin. That's why I have asked it here, hoping that someone might shed some light on the question. – Enguroo Feb 15 '18 at 0:54
  • Thanks and still, simply stating that search engines and dictionaries told you nothing useful is hardly the same as explaining what you searched for and what useless responses you got, is it? I hope someone else can say for sure and to me it doesn't seem clear that ELU should be looking at purely etymological questions, which this is. – Robbie Goodwin Feb 16 '18 at 21:20
  • @RobbieGoodwin English etymology is on-topic here. The site is for "linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts", after all! Enguroo, it would be helpful if you could describe some of your research efforts, so answerers don't duplicate what you've already tried. Citing an authority for the separate uses of the two phrases would also be helpful. – 1006a Mar 9 '18 at 23:14
  • Uh… thanks, 1006a, and why on Earth was the useful part of that addressed to me? – Robbie Goodwin Mar 9 '18 at 23:20
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I was taught that a business letter should end as yours faithfully (as in "I remain your faithful servant"), and personal letters should end as yours sincerely (" as in I am your sincere friend".) But of course that was back in the day when schools concentrated more on learning social interaction than policing lunch boxes and gender fluidity.

  • add citations to faithfully and sincerely to support your answer. – lbf Mar 9 '18 at 23:00
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    This doesn't answer the question: what is "[t]he origin of Yours Sincerely and Yours Faithfully"? – Laurel Mar 9 '18 at 23:01
  • "Yours faithfully" is not much used these days. I am old enough to remember, though, when some people ended their letters "I beg to remain, Sir, your humble and obedient servant..." Letters to The Times, were always shown as ending "I beg to remain, Joe Bloggs". – WS2 Mar 9 '18 at 23:17
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Sin means to err, as in make a mistake. Cera means wax, Sincera was a word used by wax workers and wood carvers to signify if the sculpture or figure was flawless. It later came to mean 'without flaw' and much later, sincere, as in, honest and truthful.

  • Welcome to English Language and Usage. You should cite the sources for the information supplied. You might be surprised when you do. – J. Taylor Dec 19 '18 at 18:58

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