Mormon Tabernacle Choir Blog

Did You Know “Goodbye” Is Short for “God Be with You”?

It’s amazing how words and phrases can evolve over time and take on new meaning—for instance, in the 1300’s, the word “nice” meant “silly,” or “ignorant.” “Egregious,” which now means “outstandingly bad,” used to mean “remarkably good.”

While the evolution of “goodbye” isn’t as dramatic of a shift in meaning as the previous examples, it has quite an interesting background. The first known use of the word “goodbye” was recorded in 1573 in a letter by English writer and scholar, Gabriel Harvey, which reads: “To requite your gallonde [gallon] of godbwyes, I regive you a pottle of howdyes.”" “Godbwye” is a contraction of the phrase “God be with ye.”  Throughout the years the word “good” was substituted for “God” due to the influence of phrases such as “good day” or “good evening.”

The hymn “God Be With You Till We Meet Again”, which was written by Jeremiah Rankin, was composed so his church choir could have something to sing when they parted each week. Rankin said this about the hymn, “Written…as a Christian goodbye, it was called forth by no person or occasion, but was deliberately composed as a Christian hymn on basis of the etymology of “goodbye,” which is “God be with you.” He got the idea for the first stanza of the song when he saw the dictionary definition of "good-bye" was short for "God be with you." The song was written in 1882 when Rankin was 54 years old.

As a close to many of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir broadcasts, “God Be With You Till We Meet Again” is the final goodbye number and acts as a benediction to many of the General Conferences of the Church. Watch: