In my family we have always said “Gesundheit!” in response to a sneeze, and it occurred to me to wonder how far back that went. The OED takes it back to 1914 (Everybody’s Feb. 484 ‘Saved your life,’ he murmured mechanically, as one suffixes ‘Gesundheit’ to a sneeze), but the entry is from 1972, and I figured I could antedate it with Google Books. But a search limited to 1800-1913 turned up only references to German uses. 1890:

Oh! the sneezing that year in Germany. The upper ten thousand sneezed (Genesung!); the middle hundred thousand sneezed (Gesundheit!), and the lower thousand thousand sneezed (Helf Gott!)


people often wish good health to the person sneezing: Ihre Gesundheit ! or Gesundheit ! or (less respectfully) wohl bekomm’s ! or prōsit !


A German sneezes with all his might, and if there is a compatriot within hearing he says, ‘Gesundheit.’


Few of us realize when we say “God bless us”, or “Gesundheit” in German, when a person sneezes, that it is the evolution of an old superstition

So 1914 would seem to be at least close to the origin of the use in English; the question is why did it become so widespread when World War I put paid to so many items of German influence? You’d think anyone who said “Gesundheit” during the war would have gotten the “kaiser-lover” treatment and desisted forthwith.

Also, I discovered the Wikipedia article Response to sneezing, which is full of interesting things — not least that in Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, and Korean, “nothing is generally said after a sneeze except for when expressing concern when the person is sick from a cold or otherwise.” Areal feature!


  1. Searching chroniclingamerica I find:

    1887-07-09 ascribed by Edward L Wakeman to Pennsylvania Dutch mothers, who I guess were still German speakers then?

    1903-10-31 review of Funk & Wagnall’s New Standard Dictionary:

    Some of the new words look queer in English, like “gesundheit,” when you sneeze.

    It’s in F+W 1902 Addenda

  2. There’s also this 1890 ad for Montgomery Ward in Chicago:

    Our stock of Groceries is complete, even to Pickled Whang-doodles—and we have saddles that will fit any Gazoontite on earth.

  3. The ad ends with, “Come in and expectorate tobacco juice on the floor or make yourself at home in any way agreeable to yourself.”

  4. Fascinating! I dunno about the 1890 ad, but the New Standard Dictionary review is a nice antedate, and makes it clear that it goes back to more or less the turn of the century.

  5. An interesting cultural difference with sneezing is that in some cultures, like in the countries of the former Soviet Union, the sneezer is expected to apologize after sneezing; that was something I as a German had to get used to doing when I lived there. Now it has become second nature and I even do it in languages and in company where it isn’t expected.

  6. “Come in and expectorate tobacco juice on the floor or make yourself at home in any way agreeable to yourself.”

    Of pedantic interest: that would not be expectoration sensu stricto, since the tobacco juice issues from the mouth and not from further down.

    Here is the clearest entire PDF version I found, of that edifying contribution to letters: Shooting on upland, marsh, and stream (19 MB).

  7. J.W. Brewer says

    Noetica’s “sensu stricto” sense is sense 1 here; the 1890 usage is sense 2 here. Apparently the decline of Latinity among the tobacco-chewing classes of American society was already well underway by then, making it easier for the English sense of words to drift from an etymology that was no longer transparent.

  8. When I was little, I picked up saying, “Bleshoo!” when someone sneezed. Later, I think after I heard my German-American-Canadian-American grandfather say it, I learned, “Gesundheit!” as an alternative. However, at that point my mother explained it in terms of a folk belief that someone’s soul separated from their body when they sneezed, and and the devil might come to try and gtab it; so an invocation was needed to reattach body and soul. However, from the context, I misapprehended that “Gesundheit!” was the explicitly religious expression. (It was German. I had no idea what it meant.) Only when I was in middle school did I realize I had been saying, “Bless you!” all my life, and I immediately switched expressions.

  9. Yes, JWB. And SOED for expectorate (I am for temporarily without my OED access):

    †1 verb trans. Of a medicine: enable (sputum) to be expelled from the chest or lungs. E17–L18.
    2 verb trans. Eject from the throat or bronchial passages by coughing, hawking, etc. M17.
    E. B. Browning A woman expectorated blood violently as an effect of the experiment.
    3 verb refl. & intrans. Relieve one’s feelings. arch. M17.
    4 verb intrans. Clear one’s throat or bronchial passages of sputum; clear one’s mouth of saliva, spit. E19. [bold added]

    For non-verbs, within that entry:

    expectoration: the action or an act of expectorating or spitting; expectorated matter:
    E17. expectorative noun & adjective (rare) †(a) noun = expectorant noun; (b) adjective of or marked by expectoration: M17.
    expectorator noun †(a) = expectorant noun;(b) a person who expectorates or spits: L17.

    The separate entry for expectorant is concerned only with sputum, whose entry confines it to non-buccal production:

    Medicine. Thick mucus coughed up from the respiratory tract esp. in certain diseases of the lungs, chest, or throat; a mass or quantity of this.

    Euw, as they say.

  10. First OED cite for c. intransitive. gen. To expel saliva (sometimes mixed with chewing tobacco, betel nut, etc.) from the mouth; to spit”

    1823 Blackwood’s Edinb. Mag. Mar. 368/1 No man has a right to expectorate publicly in a high wind.

    And quite right too.

  11. ktschwarz says

    mollymooly, those links are great. Paging through the Funk & Wagnalls, I came to a detailed section on pronunciation with a note (p. 2196) showing that although they have the NORTH-FORCE distinction, they are aware that there is a merger in progress:

    (ō is the vowel of “no”; ɵ̄ (barred o with macron) is the vowel of “law”; ᴜ is the vowel of “but”)

    Variant ō > ɵ̄ : ōr is varying in England toward ɵ̄. Some phonetists do not recognize an ōr, but pronounce shore shɵ̄ᴜ and pronounce oar and or, four and for, mourn and morn, alike.

  12. Via
    — Richmond VA Item, 29 August 1900: ”Gezundheit’ sez my daughter ‘Lizabeth. She’s been takin’ a term in German at th’ high school, an’ they always sez ‘Gezundheit’ when a feller sneezes just fer politeness.

    This was in a syndicated humor column widely published in other newspapers. yields no other instances when searching for keywords gezundheit and sneeze pre-1901. Gezundheit solo brings up unrelated uses mostly in German papers published in the US.

    But even after 1900, there are only a handful of results for the combined keywords, even though this response to a sneeze came into general usage. There just were not many occasions to mention this in a newspaper.

  13. Thanks!

  14. Lars Mathiesen (he/him/his) says

    Possibly a myth, but I’ve been told that in the middle ages the belief was that somebody other than the sneezer had to recite all of the Pater Noster before it was safe to sneeze again. Because devils and souls.

    In Danmark we say ‘prosit which has fewer syllables than Gesundheit or indeed the Pater Noster.

  15. What do people say in Yiddish?

  16. J.W. Brewer says

    I am used to “prosit” or the derived “prost” in a (southern) German context as exclusively a thing you say in an alcohol-drinking context. Obviously saying “to your health” and functional equivalents are cross-culturally common in the boozing context, but I’m curious as to whether “prosit” remains a thing you would say in response to a sneeze anywhere south of Denmark today. Or, for that matter, if there’s anywhere in the Teutonophone world where you say “Gesundheit” while clinking beer glasses.

  17. What do people say in Yiddish?

    According to the Wikipedia article linked in the last paragraph of the post: “זײַ געזונט (zay gezunt), צו געזונט (tsu gezunt), אסותא (asuse).” The Weinreich dictionary gives the second (tsu gezunt).

  18. The classical Greeks believed that sneezes could be positive omens sent by the gods. In The Odyssey, Penelope, after explaining her commitment to wait for her husband’s return, adds:

    Didn’t you notice that my son sneezed a blessing on all I had said? May this mean that death is inevitable for all the Suitors!

    Xenophon also mentions in Anabasis that after he laid out one of his proposals before the assembled Ten Thousand, one of the men sneezed, and he pointed to this as a positive omen. That happened very shortly after Xenophon (previously not even a formal officer in Cyrus’s force, although a personal friend and protege of one of the generals, Proxenus) has been elected as one of the Ten Thousand’s new generals, after the original five generals and many secondary officers had been lured to a meeting with the Lydian satrap Tissaphernes and killed. So the sneeze helps to validate Xenophon’s proposals and cement his authority in an extremely precarious situation.

  19. David Eddyshaw says

    Catullus 45 refers to lucky sneezing, but the girl in question is Greek even if the boy has a good Latin name. Also, the propitious sneezer is Amor, who is probably Greek too, I expect.

  20. For more on classical sneezing, I recommend ‘The Omen of Sneezing’ by Pease.

  21. tsu gezunt

    That explains the identical Modern Hebrew, לַבְּרִיאוּת labri’ut ‘to health’. אָסוּתָא asuta (Aramaic ‘health’) is something I’ve seen in older books but never heard.

  22. I think, in Russia too, sneezing when someone speaks is considered a sign of agreement. I might be misremembering something. It’s not a very strong superstition.

  23. “наздраве” “to health” in Modern Bulgarian also, as in Modern Hebrew.

  24. Lars Mathiesen (he/him/his) says

    FWIW, in my parts of Denmark prosit is only for sneezing, for drinking and clinking of glasses it’s exclusively skål. (Any intimation that that’s a reference to the skulls of the English from which the Vikings drank their mead is scurrilous fake news. But they’d totally have done it).

  25. Definitely an American thing – Gesundheit.

    I have a vague recollection of first hearing it in the 1980s in the sitcom “Benson” (or was it because there was a german character who usec to sprinkle herconversation with German words???)

    Here in Australia, it’s always “Bless you!”

  26. Definitely an American thing – Gesundheit.

    That’s what I had assumed, and when I started writing this post I mentioned it was US. But then the OED entry didn’t have any geographical restriction, so I was confused and afraid and deleted the mention.

  27. @Brett: on the subject of misunderstanding these things, as a very young exchange student in France it took me quite a while to figure out that “à tes souhaits” was not onomatopoeia, like saying “achoo” back at someone who’s sneezed. (Which I found weird and annoying, but hey, cultural differences!)

  28. David Marjanović says

    prosit which has fewer syllables than Gesundheit

    Upper German dialects excepted as usual 🙂

    I am used to “prosit” or the derived “prost” in a (southern) German context as exclusively a thing you say in an alcohol-drinking context.

    Plus Prosit Neujahr! in the New Year concert of the Vienna Philharmonics; that may be taken out of the custom of drinking sparkling wine (not usually champagne specifically) the midnight before.

    Due to the aforementioned decline in Latinity, BTW, prosit gets final stress.

    I’m curious as to whether “prosit” remains a thing you would say in response to a sneeze anywhere south of Denmark today. Or, for that matter, if there’s anywhere in the Teutonophone world where you say “Gesundheit” while clinking beer glasses.

    Never encountered either. Drinking is “upon”, though: auf die Gesundheit! is imaginable – but it would count as an outright toast, not as a boilerplate formula.

    “à tes souhaits”

    …Wait, that’s still the “lucky omen” thing!

    Surrounded by barbarians, the French continue to drink their breakfast drinks out of bowls and treat sneezes as signs of good luck. I must say I’m impressed. What next? Garum?

  29. John Cowan says

    (Any intimation that that’s a reference to the skulls of the English from which the Vikings drank their mead is scurrilous fake news. But they’d totally have done it).

    /me imagines a bunch of anglophones lifting their glasses and saying “Shell!”

  30. Due to the aforementioned decline in Latinity, BTW, prosit gets final stress.

    I wasn’t sure whether to believe you — all my reference works have initial stress — but then I went to Wiktionary and found “IPA(key): /ˈproːzit/”… and the audio file has a guy saying /proˈziːt/! I wonder when the change occurred?

  31. My father said gesundheit (kazoom-tight to my infant ears) despite not being American. Perhaps a tribute to the one year of German he took in secondary school before the teacher took sick and left.

  32. David Marjanović says

    Actually, I suspect the final stress of Neujahr (…which may itself require an explanation…) got copied. Prosit is rare otherwise. (And in the formula the i is short. Also, Austria, so no [z]. Video here.)

    Prost does occur, the verb is even zuprosten, and evidently that comes from Prosit with initial stress.

  33. Lars Mathiesen (he/him/his) says

    Doesn’t have quite the ring, does it, JC? Weak-at-the-knees shibilant, I ask you! Another just-so story is that skoal was taken up by the English court after a visit by some Danish king or other, not knowing what the other side was imagining when they said that.

    And as indicated upstream, we Danes have had no truck with dislatinate German aberrations and stress prosit properly. (Going back far enough, I assume pro was its own word and as such both halves had monosyllabic stress. Which I have no idea how would have worked. But in university / church Latin prosit would belong to the conjugation of prodesse, of course).

  34. evidently that comes from Prosit with initial stress.

    So nobody says Prosit that way any more? You write as if it’s purely historical (and possibly out of living memory).

  35. PlasticPaddy says
    These are a pukka bayrisches Blasorchester despite the “Anglo” name
    Accent on first syllable, unenthusiastic hardening of s.

  36. Prosit is rare (and has been rare for a long time); it simply sounds pretentious. Those who still use it, occasionally, are definitely a subset of those who have enough latinity to know the morphology of prodesse, and I have never heard anyone stress it on the second syllable; that’s definitely an aberration. [z], on the other hand, is the usual pronunciation.

    I have never heard Neujahr stressed on the second syllable.

  37. You and DM seem to hang out in different circles.

  38. David Marjanović says

    We hang out in different countries (what social life I have here in Berlin is mostly in English; I got to speak French in the last two days too, yay!). I do confirm, though, that prosit is very rare in general; I basically hear it once a year in the ritual at the concert.

    (Never been to an Oktoberfest; I don’t drink beer, and, trust me, there’s absolutely no point that way.)

    [z], on the other hand, is the usual pronunciation.

    Of course – in places where [z] is native, i.e. north of the Weißwurstäquator. I had to learn to articulate it when I started to learn French and English.

  39. John Cowan says

    Doesn’t have quite the ring, does it, JC? Weak-at-the-knees shibilant, I ask you!

    We’ve got 808 sh-words in and 456 sk-words. I call that pretty fair and balanced.

  40. @Y: what’s taught in the YIVO world is צו געזונט (more or less /tsǝgɛzunt/)*, but what most people i know say, and what i grew up with, is געזונטהײַט [gezunt.hayt] / gesundheit, which in my family could be either yiddish or general-american (no german-speakers in the lineage closer than the 1700s, as far as i know; i don’t think the bukovinan side of the family were well-off enough to have been part of that layer).

    * with an option for more elaborate things like “a gezunt in dos kepele” [a health to your little head].

  41. The Aramaic word אסותא ʾāsūtā ‘healing, cure, remedy’ (in Syriac as ܐܣܘܬܐ ʾāsūtā ‘healing, cure, miraculous curing’; Mandaic asuta ‘health’) has an interesting ulterior etymology. It looks like the regular abstract noun in -ūtā derived from the root ʾsy ‘to heal, cure’, also seen in Aramaic ʾāsyā ‘physician, doctor, healer’. The root was perhaps originally extracted from ʾāsyā ‘physician’, if not from the abstract ʾāsūtā. This group of Aramaic words is doubtless from Akkadian asû ‘physician, doctor’, existing beside the abstract noun asûtu ‘the profession of physician, practice of medicine; medical skill’. Akkadian asû itself is a borrowing of Sumerian azu 𒀀𒍪.

    I wonder how old this use of ʾāsūtā in response to a sneeze is. The Mishnah recounts has something similar with the word equivalent to Aramaic ʾāsūtā in Hebrew, מַרְפֵּא marpēʾ ‘healing, recovery’ (derived from Hebrew רָפָא rāp̲āʾ ‘to heal’). In Berakhot 53a, following a discussion of preventing the interruption of study by the excessive recitation of blessings in the communal life of the Torah study hall, there is discussion of what should be said after a sneeze (quickly executed quasi-Masoretic vocalized transliteration of my own intended only for the benefit of LH readers who are unfamiliar with Hebrew but would like to have some idea of the sound of the text):

    תניא נמי הכי של בית רבן גמליאל לא היו אומרים מרפא בבית המדרש מפני בטול בית המדרש

    tanyā nammî haḵî šel bêṯ Rabbān Gamlîʾēl lōʾ hāyû ʾômərîm marpēʾ bəḇêṯ hammiḏrāš mippənê biṭṭûl bêṯ hammiḏrāš

    It has been taught similarly thus: The members of the house of Rabban Gamaliel did not say Healing! (when someone sneezed) in the Torah study hall, to prevent the interruption of (study in) the Torah study hall.

    And another text of around the same age as the Mishnah, the Tosefta, has the following (Tosefta Shabbat 8.2 ):

    האומר מרפא הרי זה מדרכי האמורי ר’ אלעזר ברבי צדוק אומר אין אומרים מרפא מפני ביטול תורה של בית ר”ג לא היו אומרים מרפא מפני דרכי האמורי

    hāʾômēr marpēʾ hărê zēh middarḵê ʼĔmôrî. R′ ʾElʿāzār b. R′ Ṣāḏôq ʾômēr ên ʾômərîm marpēʾ mippənê bîṭṭûl tôrāh šel bêṯ Rabbān Gamlîʾēl lōʾ hāyû ʾômərîm marpēʾ mippənê ḏarḵê ʼĔmôrî.

    He who says Healing! (in response to a sneeze): surely this is a superstitious practice (literally, ‘from the customs of Amorites’). Rabban Eleazar bar Tzadok says that they do not say Healing!, in order to avoid the interruption of Torah study; the members of the house of Rabban Gamliel do not say Healing!, in order to avoid superstitious practices (‘customs of Amorites’).

    I wonder if Aramaic lies behind this use of marpēʾ, and if ʾāsūtā was chosen as the salutation after sneezing for sound-symbolic reasons (cf. Arabic عطسة ʿaṭsa ‘a sneeze’; English achoo, German hatschi, hatzi, Polish apsik, etc.).

  42. Sneezing is mentioned several times in Sei Shōnagon’s Pillow Book. Translations below from Ivan Morris (1967).

    In her list of ‘Hateful Things’ (にくきもの nikuki mono), sandwiched between men who praise their former lovers in the presence of their present lovers, and fleas, there are the following items (quick modernizing transliteration for the benefit of LH readers who are unfamiliar with Japanese):

    はなひて誦文する人。 大かた人の家の男主ならでは、高くはなひたるもの、いとにくし。

    Hana hite zumon suru hito. Ōkata hito no ie no otokoshū narade wa, takaku hana hitaru mono, ito nikushi.

    A person who recites a spell himself after sneezing. In fact, I detest anyone who sneezes, except the master of the house.

    And at the head of the list called ‘People Who Look Pleased With Themselves’ (したりがほなるもの shitarigao naru mono), there is the following:


    Shōgatsu tsuitachi no tsutomete, saisho ni hana hitaru hito.

    A man who sneezes before anyone else on the morning of New Year’s Day.

    (Pleased because everyone else will wish him good luck on that auspicious day.)

    There is also the wonderful passage here, beginning The Empress spoke to me for a while and then asked, “Are you really fond of me?”, reflecting the belief that a sneeze indicated the last person who had spoken was not telling the truth.

  43. CuConnacht says

    I heard zay gezunt from Yiddish-speaking American colleagues (all US-born, I think) in 1969-70.

  44. Sorry, that should be darḵê hāʼĔmôrî “of the Amorites” (for those who are reading my post above). I left out the article while transliterating.

  45. Jeffry House says

    I grew up in Milwaukee. My mothers’ side of the family was entirely German-speaking before her generation. (She was born in 1918).

    Gesundheit after a sneeze was absolutely standard. I doubt I ever heard another expression. Certainly my maternal grandparents used to say this.

    For drinking while playing cards, “Prost!” not prosit, was the word normally used.

    Also while drinking at the card table, if the children were still up, it was required that everyone take a turn singing a verse of “Johnny Schmoker”. I can still remember most of the German lyrics, even though at the time I had zero spoken German.

  46. David Marjanović says


    Huh, never encountered that one.

    Also, I’m suddenly wondering about Emory University.

  47. Stu Clayton says

    Also, I’m suddenly wondering about Emory University

    Named after the Methodist bishop John Emory. Emory from Emmerich which, sez here, may be derived from Amalrich or Heinrich, or may be a meld of similar names. The Italian form of Emmerich is Amerigo, and so back to the Americas. No Amorites in sight, only some Amali.

  48. John Cowan says

    In addition to Emory University in Atlanta, there is also Emory and Henry College in southwestern Virginia, named after the same bishop plus Patrick “Give me liberty or give me death” Henry and likewise founded just after Emory’s death. If Emory is indeed a variant of Heimrich [sic] in this case, then the two eponyms have surnames which are doublets. Emory himself was neither a Georgian nor a Virginian but a Marylander,

  49. On Prosit / Prost: I can also confirm that the former is bookish / outdated; I know it only from older books and from the song Paddy linked. The latter is what you usually say when drinking.
    Neujahr I’ve heard both with initial and with final stress, and in the colocation Prost Neujahr I myself (and many people I know) pronounce it with final stress, while I pronounce it with initial stress otherwise.
    Considering sneezing as confirmation is also known at least in parts of Germany; etwas beniesen means to confirm something by sneezing (not something someone actually strives to do, but rather other people commenting on a sneeze after a statement with du hast es beniest / du musst es beniesen).

  50. David Marjanović says

    etwas beniesen

    Stunning. I had no idea.

  51. J.W. Brewer says

    I think the “from” in Stu’s Teutonocentric source may be misleading. The English name Emery/Emory is usually said, like the German name Emmerich, to ultimately descend from the good old Visigothic name Amal[a]ric, with French Amaury probably having something to do causally with why the English name lacks a final consonant. One would not particularly expect an American bearer of the name (as either given name or surname) to be a post-Anglicization German-American. Some of the more westerly parts of Maryland had lots of ethnic-Germans coming down from Pennsylvania among their founding colonial population, but Bishop Emory was from the Eastern Shore.

  52. Right, Xerîb. Of course ’āsûtā’ means ‘cure, healing’, not ‘health’.

    In the Talmud Yerushalmi, Brakhot 6,6, we have (Guggenheimer edition), שָׁאֲלוּ אֶת בֶּן זוֹמָא מִפְּנֵי מַה בָּא לָהֶן יַיִן בְּתוֹךְ הַמָּזוֹן כָּל־אֶחָד מְבָרֵךְ לְעַצְמוֹ. אָמַר לָהֶם מִפְּנֵי שֶׁאֵין בֵּית הַבְּלִיעָה פָּנוּי. אָמַר רִבִּי מָנָא הֲדָא אָמְרָה אֲהֵן דְּעָטִישׁ גַו מֵיכְלָא אֲסִיר לְמֵימַר ייס בְּגִין סַכַּנְתָּא דְּנַפְשָׁא. [Hebrew]:šā’ălû ’et ben zômā’ mipĕnê ma bā’ lāhen yayin bĕtôḵ hammāzôn kol-’eḥad mĕḇārēḵ lĕ‘aṣĕmô. ’āmar lāhem mipĕnê še’ên bêṯ habĕli‘â pānûy. ’āmar ribî mānā’ [Aramaic:] hădā’ ’āmrâ ’ăhēn dĕ‘āṭîš gaw mêkḻā’ ăsîr lĕmêmar YYS bĕgîn sakantā’ dĕnap̱šā’. ‘They asked of Ben Zoma, Why is it that when wine was served to them in the middle of the meal, each one makes the benediction for himself? He said, Because the pharynx [“place of swallowing”] is not empty [i.e. so as not to have the eaters follow another’s benediction with an Amen while they are swallowing their food.] Rebbi Mana said, This means that if one sneezes in the middle of the meal, one may not say YYS because of danger to ones life.’ ייס yys is given without niqqud, but is evidently Greek ἴασις ‘cure, remedy’.

    Jump forward to the Middle Ages. Several commentators quote that passage from the Talmud Yerushalmi—Rabbeinu Yonah Girondi (Spain, late 13th c.), Rashba (Spain, c. 1300), Rosh (Spain, c. 1300), Hameiri (Provence, c. 1300)—quote that passage from Yerushalmi, more or less verbatim, but substituting the Aramaic ’āsûtā’ for the older Greek word. Gpoing back a couple hundred years, Rashi’s 11th century Commentary on the Babylonian Berakhot, which Xerîb quoted earlier, says מרפא – לאדם המתעטש שרגילים לומר אסותא: ‘marpē’—to a person who sneezes, as one usually says ’āsûtā’‘. All these imply that the Aramaic word was in common usage in Medieval Western Europe. Since its meaning and usage are identical to the Greek, an early calque is suggested. I wonder which way the calque went, and where and when it occurred.

    The Shulchan Aruch, a compendium of Jewish law written by the Spanish-born Yoseph Karo in 1563, uses the line about sneezing during the meal, translated into Hebrew, and again, uses ’āsûtā’.

    The earliest modern usage of ’āsûtā’ that I could find in the ‘Gesundheit’ sense comes from Mendele Mokher Sforim’s 1869 novel, The Book of Beggars, a.k.a. Fishke the Lame, in the context of snuff tobacco. The first newspaper attestation I could find is from 1886, about sneezing from dust in the street.

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