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bless (blĕs)
tr.v. blessed or blest (blĕst), bless·ing, bless·es
1. To make holy by religious rite; sanctify: The clergy blessed the site for the new monastery.
2. To invoke divine favor upon: The bishop blessed the fishing fleet.
3. To make the sign of the cross over: She knelt and blessed herself.
4. To honor as holy; glorify: Bless the Lord.
5. To confer well-being or prosperity on: They were blessed with a baby girl.
6. To endow, as with talent: He was blessed with a photographic memory.
bless you
Used to wish good health to a person who has just sneezed.

[Middle English blessen, from Old English blētsian, to consecrate; see bhel-3 in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]

blesser n.

Word History: The verb bless comes from Old English bldsian, blēdsian, blētsian, "to bless, wish happiness, consecrate." Although the Old English verb has no cognates in any other Germanic language, it can be shown to derive from the Germanic noun *blōdan, "blood." Bldsian therefore originally meant "to consecrate with blood, sprinkle with blood." In many cultures, the blood of a sacrificed animal is thought to hallow and bring blessings upon the people and places that it touches. In the Biblical book of Exodus, for example, God punishes the Egyptians by killing the first-born son in every family, but the Israelites are able to protect their own houses from divine wrath by sprinkling the blood of a sacrificed lamb on their lintels and doorposts. The Angles, Saxons, and Jutes, the early Germanic migrants to Britain, would have originally used the verb bldsian for the consecrations effected by their own pagan sacrifices. After they converted to Christianity, however, bldsian acquired new meanings when it was used to translate the verb benedīcere, "to bless" in the Latin Bible.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2022 by HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.

Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices

    Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:

    Indo-European Roots

    Semitic Roots

    The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.