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9 Ways To Say Good Luck For Any Occasion

How to avoid well-worn phrases like "good luck" and "congratulations"

Upon hearing good news, your first impulse is likely to say, “Congratulations“—which is used “to express joy in the success or good fortune of another.” Or you might wish someone good luck—which means “good fortune.” But those two phrases are not always the best options. 

Sometimes using them can feel disingenuous—”lacking in frankness and sincerity—or hypocritical. For example, if you find out you and a colleague are both up for the same promotion and you simply say, “Good luck,” it may sound like you mean the exact opposite.

Similarly, some experiences are so momentous that a simple congratulations does not meet the magnitude of the occasion. Did your sister just find out that she is pregnant after 10 years of trying? Congratulations may not encapsulate all of the things you want to say. And in some instances, saying “congratulations” can be the exact wrong thing to say. So what should you say instead?

Check out this slideshow of nine things to say instead of the well-worn phrases good luck and congratulations. Make sure you’re expressing exactly what you mean in every circumstance!   

On an engagement: here’s to a lifetime of happiness

Did you know it is not considered proper etiquette to say “congratulations” to the bride-to-be when she announces her engagement? This is because congratulations implies that the bride-to-be has been working toward convincing someone to marry her, and her hard work has finally paid off. 

Instead, try saying, “Here’s to a lifetime of happiness” or “I wish you both a lifetime of happiness!” The phrasing is directed toward both of them (instead of just the lucky-to-be-wed bride). By using the word lifetime, you’re implying that they will be together for the duration of their lives, letting them know that you think their union will be long-lasting.

In using the word happiness, which means “good fortune, pleasure, contentment, and joy,” you’re encapsulating all of the things you would wish for both newlyweds without implying that the process of getting there was hard work on anyone’s part!

On hoping for good news: I wish you good (or glad) tidings

If you hear the word tidingswhich means “news, information, or intelligence”—and you automatically start singing Christmas carols (hum the opening lines with me: “God rest ye merry gentlemen …”), then you’re not alone. 

Wishing someone good (or glad) tidings was once a common way to tell them you were hoping they were going to receive good news, but these days the phrase is largely relegated to holiday music (still humming: “Oh tidings of comfort and joy … COMFORT AND JOY …”). 

The word tidings has been around since before 1100, and comes from the Middle and Old English word t?dung. If you’re looking to bring back this once common phrase in place of good luck, it would be best to use it when talking to someone who is awaiting news. For example, it would be a perfect phrase for someone expecting medical test results. 

“I had my blood drawn last week, and now we just play the waiting game.”

“Oh wow, well, I wish you good tidings then.”

A greeting with well wishes built in: long days and pleasant nights

Fans of Stephen King’s Dark Tower series will recognize this phrase. Using long days and pleasant nights as a greeting can be a perfect way to say hello while simultaneously wishing someone well. 

The oft-used gunslinger phrase is sort of a sci-fi version of the email opening, “I hope you’re doing well.” Long days means that you hope the person you’re speaking with is healthy, and you’re letting them know that you wish them longevity, or “a life of great duration.” Tacking on the pleasant nights implies that you hope that their time on Earth is enjoyable, as the word pleasant means “pleasing, agreeable, and giving pleasure.”

King fans know that the proper response to this well-wish is, “And may you have twice the number,” which is the horror author’s way of saying “right back atcha.” If you want to work this literary phrase into your daily interactions, consider using it to open your work emails. 

If you’re looking for another literary way to wish someone luck, you can always use the ubiquitous line from the Hunger Games: “May the odds be ever in your favor.”

Holidays and birthdays: many happy returns

Happy birthday! Merry Christmas! Joyous Kwanzaa! These are all common ways to wish someone a happy day. But if you want to go beyond the typical greeting and extend the joy beyond one day, you can add many happy returns onto the tail end of your greeting.

Many happy returns means that you hope that not only will this birthday or holiday be good, but all the ones that follow it. 

The phrase is attributed to Lady Newdigate, based on a letter she wrote in 1789 to her soon-to-be husband in regards to their upcoming wedding day. The bride-to-be wished that they would have many opportunities to return, or “come back to the former position or state,” of the joy of their wedding day. 

If you want a chance to use many happy returns when you’re wishing someone well, consider using it in reference to a joyous romantic occasion like Lady Newdigate did and include it in wedding day salutations. 

Signing off: wishing you all the best

Sometimes ending a letter or email with the phrase good luck can sound a bit like “you’re going to need it” and less like “I hope good things come your way.” If you’re looking for a way to end a letter or email, and you want to avoid sounding ominous, try saying, “wishing you all the best.”

The word best, which means “of highest quality, excellence, or standing,” encompasses a wide variety of sentiments. Wishing you all the best can mean you’re wishing that good things come someone’s way, or it can be attributed to a more specific event. 

The word best has been around since before the year 900, and comes from the Middle English beste. Although nobody was closing an email with this turn of phrase back then, it was a common way to end a handwritten letter. 

A religious subtext: blessings, be blessed, blessed be

A blessing is usually something that is offered as an “approval or good wishes.” Traditionally grooms would ask their beloved’s father for their blessing before proposing, and religious leaders commonly offer blessings as part of services when they want to convey God’s favor upon a person. 

It is such a positive word that we even offer it as a wish for good health when someone sneezes (hopefully into the crook of their elbow) when we say, “Bless you!” 

But that does not mean the phrase has to be relegated to religious services or outdated gender roles. Anyone can offer good wishes through a blessing by saying, “be blessed.” It can be used in person, or in writing, to let someone know that you’re wishing them the best. Just try not to use the Southern version of bless your heart, which is used sarcastically to mean the opposite.

Be blessed or blessings upon you are both great alternatives to try. The word blessing has been around since prior to the year 900, and comes from the Middle English for blessinge. Due to the religious nature of its use, it is likely that it has been around for a lot longer than that! Just read the situation and your audience before using these.

Good luck on stage: break a leg! 

Anyone who’s ever been involved in live theater knows never to utter the words “good luck” to a performer who’s going on stage. Instead, to ward off the potential for poor performances or other opening-night related catastrophes, it is common for the cast to wish each other “bad luck.” And what could be worse luck than breaking your leg in front of a live audience? Well, not much comes to mind. That is why break a leg became a common way for actors and stagehands to wish each other “good luck” without having to actually utter the words. 

It may seem counterintuitive to wish someone well by telling them you hope they break a leg, which means to fracture one or more of the bones in your leg, but that’s showbiz, baby.

Of course, you don’t have to wait until you’re performing Hamlet in order to use the phrase. This would be an appropriate thing to say to someone before they give a presentation or need to get up in front of any crowd of people. 

Because break a leg is a fairly well-known way of wishing someone luck, even outside of the theater, it is safe to say that almost nobody is going to assume that you actually mean them ill will. Similarly, you can use the phrase knock ’em dead. When you tell someone to do this, you’re not actually hoping that they kill anyone, but instead wishing them good luck when they go out in front of a crowd. 

The phrase break a leg is believed to have been around since ad 1000, but its origins are uncertain.

A visual cue: fingers crossed!

While you may not actually have your fingers crossed when you use this phrase, it is a common way to let someone know that you’re hoping for the best for them. Of course, there are four fingers (and one thumb) on a hand, and the act of crossing them means that you’re hopeful for a lucky or positive resolution to the topic at hand. 

This is one of the few ways you can wish someone luck without actually having to say a word. Thanks to emoji, you can reply to an online message with the crossed fingers emoji? and in person with fingers crossed in solidarity. 

It is believed that the gesture originated in Christianity and was used as a way to replicate the cross. However you decide to use the phrase, we hope *fingers crossed* you do it with good intentions. 

Superstitions: knock on wood

When you say the phrase knock on wood,” you’re expressing hope to ward off bad luck rather than wishing someone good luck. Knock on wood is something we say when someone reports something has been going well for them. 

For example, if your grandmother says, “I never catch the flu,” it would be appropriate for you to respond with, “Yeah, well, knock on wood,” which means that you hope her luck holds out and that she does not catch the flu anytime soon. The phrase works as a reply whenever you wish what has been stated continues to be true. 

You might say, “I’ve had this generator for 10 years and, knock on wood, it has never let me down during a power outage.” By interjecting the phrase into your statement of fact, you’re implying that you hope that your luck holds out, and your generator continues to work every time you need it. 

Touch wood is another variation of knock on wood, as is actually performing the act of knocking on wood (or rapping your knuckles on your skull when there is not any wood around for knocking). It is a way of wishing for your own, or someone else’s, continued good luck. 

There are many theories as to where this superstition originates, but it’s possible it’s connected to Celtic or German folklore and the tales of supernatural entities that lived in the trunks of trees. Therefore knocking on wood would symbolize a request for these creatures to ensure continued luck.