Goodbye, and God Be With You

By R.E. Olsen

Don’t worry, I’m not going anyplace, ha! But I have always been interested in the definitions of words and their origin. I find common phrases particularly fascinating, especially considering that current meanings are often shallow as compared to the original meaning.

Some English words and phrases have been in use for such a long time that most people have since forgotten where they came from. Such is the case of “goodbye,” despite the fact that the word is so commonly used today.

Goodbye is a word that people say all the time. At first glance, it looks like a pairing of Good and Bye: two different words with two different meanings. Good, which is a positive word, but what about when it is combined with the word “bye”? Bye is normally seen as being “bad” because it indicates completion or an end. So why would these two words be used together? Does saying it mean you’re glad to be rid of someone?

Knowing how the word “goodbye” came about gives the term a whole deeper meaning.

The Real Meaning of Goodbye

In the 1500’s and earlier, a different phrase was used when people would take leave of one another. This phrase was “God be with ye.” In modern English we would say it as “God be with you.” That’s right, people actually said a blessing upon parting!

Like many phrases that get shortened over the years, the term was abbreviated to “God be w’ ye” and “God b’w’ ye” somewhere between 1565 and 1575. As time went on, it became “God b’ye” or sometimes “God b’wy.” By the 1600’s, the apostrophes signifying the contractions were left out, leaving “God bwye,” “God by” or “God bye.”

Still later, perhaps after people no longer had a clear idea of the original sense of the expression, the word “good” was substituted for “God” in the phrase. This was most likely due to the influence of similar terms such as (have a) “good day” and (have a) “good evening.”

So there you have it! The word “goodbye” is a contraction of “God be with you.” The original phrase “God be with ye” transitioned to “God-b’wye” and “God bye,” finally ending in good-bye or goodbye. (The hyphen is acceptable, although it doesn’t need to be used.)

It’s too bad most people use the word “goodbye” every day without realizing its true meaning. Of course, today many people abbreviate “goodbye” even further to simply “Bye!” or “Bye-bye!” I guess that goes with the ongoing trend of ignoring God and leaving Him out of social interaction.

However, in the original sense of the term, when one person says “goodbye” to another person, they are offering a parting prayer: “May God be with you.” The next time you say “goodbye,” remember the origin of the word is in fact a blessing.

God be with you!

Goodbye in the Bible

You can find the word “goodbye” or “good-bye” in Bibles such as the New Living Translation (NLT), New American Standard Bible (NASB), and the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB). Here are some examples:

“Early in the morning Laban kissed his grandchildren and his daughters goodbye and blessed them. Then Laban left and returned home.” ~Genesis 31:55

“Moses said good-bye to his father-in-law, and he journeyed to his own land.” ~Exodus 18:27

“Orpah kissed her mother-in-law good-bye, but Ruth remained with her.” ~Ruth 1:14

“He abandoned the oxen, ran off to follow Elijah, and asked him, ‘”Please, let me kiss my mother and father good-bye, and then I’ll come after you.’” ~1 Kings 19:20

“After He said good-bye to them, He went away to the mountain to pray.” ~Mark 6:46

“Paul, having stayed on for many days, said good-bye to the brothers and sailed away.” ~Acts 18:18

“He said good-bye and stated, ‘“I’ll come back to you again, if God wills.’” Then he set sail from Ephesus.” ~Acts 18:21

“Finally, brothers, goodbye. Keep on growing to maturity. Keep listening to my appeals. Continue agreeing with each other and living in peace. Then the God of love and peace will be with you.” ~2 Corinthians 13:11


About the Author: A homeschool dad of three young men, R.E. Olsen takes his role as spiritual head of the household seriously. He also seeks to impart God’s truth to anyone who will listen.

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