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German word of the day: Grüß Gott

Tom Ashton-Davies
Tom Ashton-Davies - [email protected]
German word of the day: Grüß Gott
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

If you are heading down south for Oktoberfest, this is a phrase you'll hear a lot - and likely use yourself.

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In southern Germany, particularly Bavaria, as well as in Austria, this term is interchangeable with ‘Guten Tag’. 

The phrase Grüß Gott derives from ‘grüß dich Gott’, meaning ‘may God bless you’. In Middle High German - spoken roughly from the 11th to the 14th century - grüßen (or greuzen) meant to greet or to bless. Therefore, the greeting is thought to have originated during this period

For contemporary German learners, the religious undertones of the phrase may be surprising. However, many greetings used today have similar connotations. For instance, the Irish greeting ‘dia dhuit’ (God with you) and the Catalan ‘adéu-siau’/’amb Déu sigueu (be with God) are both still commonplace.

You might be more familiar with the Spanish and French terms for goodbye - adiós and adieu (to God). 

Recently, the term has sparked debate in Austria when Bernhard Ebner, a right-wing politician for the ÖVP, opened his statement with Grüß Gott.

The Social Democrat (SPÖ) politician Kai Jan Krainer rejected the term, stating that ‘In Vienna [...] it’s Guten Tag’. Therefore, its usage is declining due to this association with conservatism.

READ ALSO: Grüß Gott vs. Guten Tag: What's the difference in Austria?

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If you prefer to use a different greeting in Bavaria or southern Germany to avoid this problem, there are other options. Specific greetings are not unusual in this particular German-speaking region (often referred to in German as a ‘Sprachraum’) and include: Servus, griaß di/grüs dich.

These greetings are more informal than Grüß Gott and tend to be used by people who already know one another, with ‘Servus’ having been compared to the Italian greeting ‘ciao’. 

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