Many Happy Returns (greeting)


Many Happy Returns (greeting)

Many Happy Returns is a greeting which is usually reserved for birthdays. It is more common in British English than in American English.

The term itself refers to the passing year. Since the 18th century this has been used as a salutation to offer the hope that a happy day being marked would recur many more times. It is now primarily used on birthdays; prior to the mid 19th century it was used more generally, at any celebratory or festive event.

Current usage is often as a more formal option than 'Happy Birthday'. It is also often to be found on greetings cards.

Its earliest attributable use was by Lady Newdigate in a letter written in 1789 (and published in Newdigate-Newdegate Cheverels in 1898)[1][2]:

"Many happy returns of ye day to us my Dr Love."

An alternative explanation is that "returns" here is used in the sense of "yield" or "profit" that it is still found in "investment returns". Therefore "many happy returns of the day" would be a wishing a person a rewarding day, full of happiness. This use has been traced back to Joseph Addison in 1716. [3] [4]

References

  1. ^ Many happy returns
  2. ^ A much earlier reference is found in Addisson's The Free-Holder n° 46, dated Monday, May 25, 1716: "The usual Salutation to a Man upon his Birth-day among the ancient Romans was Multos & foelices; in which they wished him many happy Returns of it."
  3. ^ "Online etymology dictionary". 2010. http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?search=happy+returns&searchmode=phrase. Retrieved 2011-05-11. 
  4. ^ "Return". Dictionary.com. 2010. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/return. Retrieved 2010-08-29. 

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