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There are a couple of movies I heard actors using Godspeed as a way to say goodbye. At least I interpreted it this way. I though never heard anyone use this expression in the UK, Ireland, Australia, U.S. or Canada. Is this really a common expression? Does Godspeed have anything to do with the speed of god? Originated from religion?

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Godspeed is an archaic way of saying goodbye, and is used in modern English in situations where very great earnestness is not inappropriate, such as a very dangerous mission, for example, where lives are at risk.

It means "May God speed you", that is, may God give you success. It is a wish for a safe, successful outcome.

P.S. If the situation is not at all serious or dangerous, and someone says "Godspeed", the word is being used in a jocular, mocking, or ironic manner, making something more of the situation than it really is, or to indicate that someone else is making more of the situation than it really is.

  • Note that in the word "godspeed", "speed" means "success", not "swiftness" as it usually means nowadays. – Tanner Swett May 19 '18 at 20:56
  • Isn't it "God's speed"? Which, like in many word pair situations when the last sound of the first word is the same as the first sound of the next word, is spoken as if there is only sound in the middle ie "god'sspeed" is said as "god'speed"? But still the written form is "God's speed"? – Bohemian May 19 '18 at 22:08
  • @Bohemian: There's the contemporary (mis)understanding of the word, and the actual history of the word to consider. It is actually not a compound consisting of two nouns, God and speed, but a wish: (May) God speed (you). The verb speed comes from Middle English speden which comes from Old English spedan. You're wishing that God will grant the traveler a journey or mission uninterrupted by mishap. – Tᴚoɯɐuo May 19 '18 at 22:51
  • +1 for being at least mostly correct. But I've always understood it to simply be an archaic word, and yes with religious connotations, rather than one implying that there is danger. I've only seen it in old books, I don't think I've ever heard someone say it in person. Most recent instance of it I saw was when John Glenn made his space flight (1962 maybe/), and someone at mission control said, "Godspeed, John Glenn" as he took off. – Jay May 19 '18 at 23:25
  • @Jay: The (archaic) intransitive verb speed means "to turn out well" and its transitive meaning is "to cause something or someone to succeed or to have a good outcome". The very wish, (May) God speed (you) or (May) God speed (things for you), entails the risk of failure, of things not turning out well. Godspeed is in a far different register than "God bless" after a sneeze. It is generally reserved for contexts of great earnestness, or earnestness-deflating levity. – Tᴚoɯɐuo May 20 '18 at 11:53

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