Printable Version
Pronunciation: gahd-speed Hear it!

Part of Speech: Interjection, Noun

Meaning: 1. (Interjection) Bon voyage! May you have good luck on your journey. 2. (Noun) Success, good fortune.

Notes: This word's history left room for it to be perceived as two words: god + speed; in fact, the Oxford English Dictionary lists them as two. This provides room for a verbal use, "God speed you on your journey." This usage doesn't make sense: why should you wish someone a speedy journey, especially if they plan to take a lazy one? All will become clear in the Word History.

In Play: The nominal sense of Godspeed is brought out more clearly in such expressions as, "I wish you Godspeed in all your endeavors." Another metaphorical sense this word has taken on is "Go ahead; I'll not try to stop you": "If you think your tattoos, spiked rainbow-colored hair, and nose ring will impress Portia Carr, Godspeed!"

Word History: Today's Good Word comes from Middle English God spede (you) "may God prosper (you)". It was made up of God + spede "may (you) prosper", from Old English spedan, which comes from sped "good fortune, success". When English borrowed success from Latin, the English word spede should have gone out of fashion. Over time, sped changed to speed, while the meaning shifted from "success" to achieving a successful outcome, to "fast". This opened the gate for expressions like, "May God speed you on your way". The root that brought speden to English came to Latin as sperare "hope". There it teamed up with pro "according" to form prosperare "to prosper, (live) in accordance with your hopes". We see the same root in Russian uspex "success". (Let's all wish Aviva Derenowski in Israel Godspeed in all she does with words, for 'twas she who suggested today's Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

P.S. - Register for the Daily Good Word E-Mail! - You can get our daily Good Word sent directly to you via e-mail in either HTML or Text format. Go to our Registration Page to sign up today!