Let’s talk about onomatopoeias

Achoo! Atchoum! Achis! These are all words that describe the sound of sneezing. Linguistically speaking, these words are onomatopoeias: words that mimic sounds to describe and name that sound.

In the English language, we’ve got lots of onomatopoeias. You may even be using them in your everyday conversations without realizing it. Words such as “bang,” “boom,” or “click” are all onomatopoeias. They’re very present in our daily lives.

You’d think that every person on the planet would hear the same sound when you sneeze. And yet, each language interprets this sound differently, creating sneezing onomatopoeias that are vastly different from each other.

Why does this happen?

Most likely because people tend to modify the sound of sneezing according to the rules and sounds of their native language. This explains why the sound for sneezing in English is “achoo,” but in Polish it’s “apsik.”

Is saying bless you universal?

The same goes for how we reply to sneezing. While in English the go-to thing to say after someone sneezes is “bless you” or “God bless you,” this is not the standard reply in other languages.

For example, Slavic languages like Russian, Polish, Czech all use a response that translates to “for your health” in English. Similarly, in Spanish, 
French, Portuguese, you’d reply with a simple “health.”

How to sneeze and respond to sneezes in 80 different languages

Sneezing is a natural reaction to nasal irritation and one that is ingrained in our DNA. We’re all different, so it's only right that the way we sneeze should vary around the globe.

We know you know how to sneeze in your own language – whether you do it with “achoo” or “atchoo” or something else entirely – but what about in other parts of the world?

So, we prepared a list of 80 ways to sneeze in different languages, together with the responses to sneezes.

Amharicአጥሸ (Atsheshe)ይማርሽ (yimarish for female, yimarih for male)May God forgive you
Arabicهاشوم (Hashoom)يرحمك الله (yarahmuk Allah)May God have mercy on you
ArmenianՈւրար (Urar)առողջություն (aroghjutyun)Health
AzerbaijaniHuşşuSağlam olBe healthy
Banglaহাচু (Hachu)আল্লাহ তোমার উপর রহম দান করুন (Alhamdulillah)May God have mercy on you
BasqueAtsitsuDoministikuThe Lord be with you
Belarusianапчхі (Apchhi)будзь здаровы (Budz zdarovy)Be healthy
BulgarianАпчиха (Apchiha)Наздраве (Nazdrave)To your health
Cantonese哈欠 (Haa-ching)好嘅 (Hǎo kǎi)A great fortunate occurrence
Chinese (Mandarin)哈啾 (Ha jiu)Mandarin people do not comment when someone sneezes
CroatianApsikNazdravljeTo your health
CzechAčíNa zdravíTo your health
DanishAtjuPrositTo your health
EnglishAchooBless you
EstonianApsuTerviseksFor health
Filipino (Tagalog)Haa-tsingHaaBless you
FinnishAtsiuhTerveydeksiTo your health
FrenchAtchoumÀ tes souhaitsTo your health
GaelicHaichDia leatGod with you
Georgianაჩი (Achi)ჯანმრთელობა (janmrteloba)Health
GreekΑτσουμ (atsoum)γείτσες (gítses)Health
Haitian CreoleAtchoumSentez bonFeel well
Hebrewצ'יק (tzik)לבריאות (labri'oot)To your health
Hindiछींक (Chheenk)आपकी ज़िदंगी में खुशियां हो" (aapki zindagi mein khushiyaan ho)May happiness come into your life
HungarianHapciEgészségedreTo your health
IcelandicÁtshúGuð blessi þigGod bless you
Japaneseハクション (Hakushon)大丈夫? (Daijoubu?)Are you okay?
KazakhАпчы (Apchy)Сау Болыңыз (Saw Bolıñız)Be healthy
Khmerស្រលេះ (sraleh)ស្បើយ (S'baoi)Fast recovery
Korean재채기 (Jaechae-gi)Koreans don’t comment when someone sneezes.
KyrgyzАпчы (Apchy)Сага болго (Saga bolgo)Be healthy
LatinDoesn’t existSalveHealth
LatvianAtšķanVeselībuTo your health
LithuanianApsčiauĮ sveikatąTo your health
MacedonianАпчи (Apchi)Наздравје (Nazdravje)To your health
MalagasyFotsoVelona!Be healthy
MalayHapciHari Krishna (ഹരി കൃഷ്ണാ)May Krishna bless you
MalteseĦaħħesEvvivaLong life
MongolianХаашаа (haashaa)Бурхан өршөө (Burkhan örshöö)May God forgive you
Nepaliछींक (Chheenk)चिरञ्जीवी भव (Chiranjeevi Bhawa)May you live long
OromoAtichoAkka dhalootaAs you age
Pashtoپوکائی (Pokai)صبر (Sah-bur)Patience
Persianچه‌تو (Cheto)عافیت باشه" (aafiyat baasheh)May it be for your health
PolishApsikNa zdrowieTo your health
PunjabiHaa(n)Tii (ਹਾਂਟੀ)ਵਾਹਿਗੁਰੂ (Waheguru)Glorious Lord
QuechuaAchhiySumaj kawsaymi ñuqaMay you have a good life
RussianАпчхи (Apchhi)Будьте здоровы (Bud'te zdorovy)Be healthy
SamoanĀtciuManuia lou malagaMay your journey be blessed
SerbianАпчи (Apči)Наздравље (Nazdravie)To your health
SlovakAčíNa zdravieTo your health
SlovenianApsihNa zdravjeTo your health
SomaliHaakooAllow kuu naxariisoMay God have mercy on you
SwahiliHachooNafuuMay God have mercy on you
Tamilஅச்சு (Achu)ஆயுசு நூறு (aa-yu-su noo-ru)/ஆயுள் நூறு (aa-yul noo-ru)Live long or Live a 100 years
Thaiชิ้น (Chin)หนึ่งในหลายสุข (Nueng nai lai suk)One of the many happiness
TurkishHapşuÇok yaşaLive long
UkrainianАпчхі (Apchhi)Будьте здорові (Bud'te zdorovi)Be healthy
UzbekApchiSog' bo'lingBe healthy
VietnameseHắt xìSức khỏeGood health
WelshAtsiwBendithGod bless you

You can listen to how people sneeze in different languages around the world in this short video from Condé Nast Traveler.

70 People Reveal How To Sneeze and Say 'Bless You' in 70 Countries | Condé Nast Traveler

How to say “bless you” in fictional languages

If you’re both an avid language learner and a fan of fantasy books and movies, you’ll definitely enjoy learning how to say “bless you” in your favorite fantasy languages.

So the next time your friend who also loves Game of Thrones as much as you do sneezes, you can proudly tell them “Hajas” (that’s the equivalent of “cheers” in Dothraki).

Here are some phrases that can be used as the equivalent of the English “bless you” (we think).

Language“Bless you” equivalentMeaning
QuenyaElen síla lúmenn' omentielvoA star shines on the hour of our meeting.
SindarinÊl síla erin lû e-govaded 'wîn.A star shines on the hour of our meeting.
Klingon'IwlIj jachjajCheers!
Na’viEywa ngahuMay Eywa be with you.

Where did “bless you” come from?

“Bless you” flies out of our mouths immediately after someone sneezes. Whether it’s a friend at a dinner party or a stranger standing in the Starbucks line behind us, “bless you” is the automatic response whenever someone sneezes.

Have you ever stopped to think why?

Nowadays, “bless you” carries no more importance to us than just being polite.

But back in the days of the Byzantine Empire and the early European Christians, people believed that sneezing created an opening for evil spirits to enter their bodies. So, they’d respond to it with a blessing, trying to keep the evil spirits away from the sneezer.

At least, that’s one of a few theories. But all of these theories, however different, claim that sneezing was somehow connected to the spiritual realm.

Bless you!

Learning how to sneeze in different languages may seem like a trivial pursuit, but it's a great way to expand your language skills and impress those around you.

Just like learning how to say hello in different languages, it's all about broadening your horizons and embracing different cultures.

So, the next time you feel a sneeze coming on, try saying "atchoo" in a new language. Who knows, it might just lead to a conversation with someone you never expected to connect with!