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In the prayer "Ave Maria" there is the line "Du bist gebenedeit unter den Frauen" where "gebenedeit" seems to have the meaning of "blessed".

Is or has this word been used in everyday language? Does the word appear in other places than in this particular prayer?

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»Gebenedeit« is the Partizip Perfekt of »benedeien«, and »benedeien« is a loanword from Latin. The latin origin is »benedicere«. It means »to bless« (»segnen« in German) or »to praise« (»preisen« or »lobpreisen« in German). Also the first name Benedict or Benedikt comes from this word.

So because of it's meaning you only can find this word in a religious context.

The German version of the prayer »Ave Maria« (»Gegrüßet seist du Maria«) was written by Martin Luther, 500 years ago, and this text has not been changed during this last 5 centuries. But German Langauge changed during this time, so this historic text sounds antique in modern ears.

So, when ever »gebenedeit« was used in every days live, then it was 500 years ago, and only in a religious context. Today you find this word only in this prayer, nowhere else. (I hope this answers your question.)

As mentioned above, there is another word with the same meaning. It is »segnen« (to bless). It comes from the noun »Segen« which also has an latin origin. The latin word »signum« (from which the english »sign« comes) was used to name the gesture of making the cross-sign (move the hand from top down, then from left to right). This sign was called »Segen«, and making this sign was »segnen« (to bless).

I guess (but I'm not sure), that 500 years ago both words (»benedeien« and »segnen«) was used at least among priests, and when Luther translated the latin prayer into German he has chosen the word that was closer to the latin original, and this definitely was »benedeien«.

The second sentence of this prayer is:

  • in Latin:

    Benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Iesus.

  • modern German:

    Gesegnet bist du unter den Frauen, und gesegnet ist dein leibliches Kind, Jesus.

  • Luthers Translation:

    Gebenedeit bist du unter den Frauen, und gebenedeit ist die Frucht deines Leibes, Jesus.

  • (my poor) englisch translation:

    You are blessed among the women, and Jesus, your own child, is blessed (too).

Btw (I was curious and googled for the origin of englisch »bless«): The englisch word »to bless« comes from Proto-Germanic »blodison« which means »mark with blood«, from the pagan tradition to sprinkle altars with blood.

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  • 4
    Luther actually wrote: "Gebenedeiet bistu vnter den Weibern vnd gebenedeiet ist die Frucht deines Leibes." The version you quoted is a modern "sanitised" version of the same. – fdb Sep 10 '16 at 23:03
  • In Catholic Austria this word is still quite common but only in religious context and prayers (for instance funerals). – Matthias Sep 15 '16 at 13:27
  • @Matthias: Wenn ich deinen Kommentar richtig verstehe, willst du sagen, dass bei Begräbnissen auch außerhalb des Gegrüßet-seist-du-Maria das Wort »gebenedeit« verwendet wird. Ist das so? Kannst du da bitte etwas ausführen und ein Beispiel geben? – Hubert Schölnast Sep 15 '16 at 14:10
  • No, basically it's used within prayers that you're doing at events such as funerals. For instance the 'Rosenkrank' prayer, which lasts for a really long time with repeatative words. those words are mentioned in the post above anyway. – Matthias Sep 16 '16 at 8:42
  • @Matthias: Der Rosenkranz (mit z am Ende, nicht mit k) ist eine mehrfach wiederholte Abfolge von Gebeten, mit einer ganz bestimmten Struktur. In einem Rosenkranz kommt insgesamt 53-mal das Gegrüßet-seist-du-Maria vor (dreimal an Beginn und dann in fünf Böcken mit je 10 Wiederholungen). Daher kommt in jedem Rosenkranz 106-mal das Wort »gebenedeit« vor. Das hat aber nichts mit Begräbnissen an sich zu tun, und liegt letzten Endes eben nur daran, dass im Gegrüßet-seist-du Maria dieses Wort zweimal enthalten ist (und eben sonst in keinem anderen deutschen Text). – Hubert Schölnast Sep 16 '16 at 17:01
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From a native speaker's perspective:

  • No, gebenedeit (as well as the infinitive benedeien) is not a word used outside a religious context.

  • Interestingly though, the opposite vermaledeit is a colloquial swear word, even if it is not too frequently used.

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