When somebody sneezes, we say "Gesundheit". Can this word be replaced by "Schönheit" or "Bescheidenheit"?

One of my colleagues has suggested me these words. What do these words mean in this situation?

  • 7
    If you do it and that certain someone is not familiar with the possibility to say these things he or she might be offended by you wishing them beauty or modesty and thereby implying a lack of said qualities on their part... so bottom line: don't do it... it's not that funny after all :)
    – Emanuel
    Commented May 8, 2012 at 19:56
  • related, but not duplicate, imho: german.stackexchange.com/q/3704/266 Commented May 8, 2012 at 20:32
  • 4
    There are worse things you could say, e.g. "Noch ein Stück Brot dazu?"
    – Landei
    Commented May 9, 2012 at 7:08
  • Some people also say "Prosit" (like when toasting). Which is meant as a joke, but if you read the word in its initial Latin meaning ("be it of use") it is even not so far away from ordinary "Gesundheit". Commented Jul 26, 2017 at 8:13

4 Answers 4


I agree with what Emanuel said: Both "Bescheidenheit" and "Schönheit" are meant to be funny responses, but people you don't know could misinterpret it.

In this case, "Bescheidenheit" probably is intended to be ironic and refers to that you should not have sneezed as your are attracting attention. "Schönheit" ends with "heit" and therefore has a connection to "Gesundheit", which might be the reason someone came up with the idea of saying it.

By the way: According to Knigge you should ignore sneezing as you would emphasize that someone sneezed. Instead, the person who sneezed should apologize.

However, the Knigge applies to polite society and should not be taken too seriously in my opinion, so just stick to "Gesundheit".

  • 1
    You may follow the "Knigge", yes, but that also is considered to be outdated. It gets a bit of a renaissance, though, and you hear "girls get impressed again by men with manners"... could be a rumor or an ad-ploy, of course. But it is always better to be polite even if you dont want to follow the "Knigge". It is completely o.k. to say "Gesundheit!", it is good to apologize for sneezing, it is mocking to say "Schönheit!" and you will not impress anyone, girls the least.
    – towi
    Commented May 9, 2012 at 7:20
  • 1
    @towi Knigge is considered to be outdated by whom exactly? I'd think most people haven't even read its suggestions/recommendations. I know for sure I haven't. And I also disagree with this Knigge recommendation. I like hearing “Gesundheit” after having sneezed.
    – cgnieder
    Commented May 11, 2012 at 19:53
  • 1
    On an unrelated note: the real Adolph Freiherr Knigge would spin in his grave at relativistic velocities if he knew how his name and work is being abused. His best known work "Über den Umgang mit Menschen" was about anything BUT whether or not to say "Gesundheit" when someone sneezes. Knigge didn't at all focus on such things in this book, and at worst held them merely a way to cover one's lack of actual competence. He detested people who made a career out of nothing but "sucking up" to people with insubstantial manners.
    – Hackworth
    Commented May 15, 2012 at 15:20
  • @Clemens: Well, you are right ;-)
    – towi
    Commented May 21, 2012 at 8:37

No, you should not.

To say "Schönheit" a lot used in a joking way. You should not use it because people you don't know could interpret it that you mean it mockingly. The full joke runs as follows: "Hatschi!", "Schönheit! Gesund bist du ja.", translates to "Achoo!", "Beauty! Since you are healthy, anyway!" -- only suitable in company that likes bad jokes.

I never heard someone wish "Bescheidenheit!", though, and it probably comes from people who finally got tired of the "Schönheit!"-joke -- and made up one even worse. This would probably translate (badly) to the full joke "Achoo!", "Humbleness! Since you are healthy, anyway."


The words mean what they always mean.

If you say "Gesundheit", you imply, that the person isn't in best health state. If you say "Schönheit" instead, you imply she isn't beautiful, but ugly, and you wish him or her to improve in that field. The same is true with "Bescheidenheit" which is not even common as a joke, in my cultural context.

As you can see, you would only use such greetings with buddies or when you're drunk.

  • 1
    I agree with the last paragraph. However, if I say Gesundheit, I do not necessarily "imply that the person isn't in best health state", I only imply that they just sneezed. It could just have been a dose of dust or pepper, nothing health related. Commented May 9, 2012 at 10:01
  • @HendrikVogt: But then you're joking too, if saying "Gesundheit". Commented May 9, 2012 at 10:03
  • No, I'm not. I'm just using a common expression. Same as saying Mahlzeit when I meet people around noon. Commented May 9, 2012 at 10:10
  • “[...] or when you're drunk.” Why is that? Do you mean people are allowed to be impolite when drunk? And nobody will take offence?
    – cgnieder
    Commented May 11, 2012 at 19:59
  • No - the other way round: People get drunk to allow themselves to get impolite. ;) Commented May 11, 2012 at 20:10

You shouldn't use "Schönheit" instead of "Gesundheit" without first having a feeling for proper context, because the literal meaning (you lack beauty) is insulting and many people feel that the joke gets old.

But I also feel that people here are overstating the judgment on the alternative wishes.

I come from a family with a tendency to multiple sneezing and when people have unwisely decided to say "Gesundheit" after your first sneeze, but the sneeze is immediately followed by five more, it is socially somewhat awkward, because it is neither appropriate to repeat the wish nor appropriate to just say nothing now, and the kind of joking variation are a good way to dispel the tension.

I have no doubt whatsoever that the variations originate from multiple sneezing situations, and following "Gesundheit" with "Schönheit" is on its way to become a meaningless phrase as well.

  • Great explanation! The variant I'm most familiar with in such situations is "Gesundheit, Glück und viele Kinder" :-) Commented May 14, 2012 at 17:35

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