“Gott sei Dank” is translated to “Thank God” or “What a luck”.

My understanding is this:

  • Gott (to God, dative)
  • sei (be: like ”let there be”, or “I wish there be”)
  • Dank (Thanks: noun)

So: “To God be the Thanks”, “Thanks should be to God”, or “We should thank God”.

Is my understanding correct?

5 Answers 5


Yes, you're right.

"Gott sei Dank"

literally translated

"To God be the thanks"

is a common phrase to express joy when something good has happened. It may have derived from the Latin phrase:

"Deo gratias"


  • The OP asked about the literal meaning; they already knew its usage. Commented Sep 19, 2020 at 6:29
  • Thanks for pointing that out. I got carried away :)
    – leun4m
    Commented Sep 19, 2020 at 9:04

You're right, it means "thank God". It appears to be a jussive subjunctive (Konjunktiv I). I wager that the original structure was "Gott sei Dank gegeben" - "Gratitude be given to God" - or something similar, and the verb was lost over time.


I don't speak German at all, but we have the same expression in Dutch: "God zij dank", which is pretty much the same.

The other answers have already addressed the meaning of the expression, but you already knew that (because you already provided the translation in your question).

I'm guessing your main question is about the word "sei" (or "zij" in Dutch). Why is it in there?

Well... to be honest, I can't think of a single other example where we would use this word in a similar context. It's very archaic, and never used anywhere else (maybe it's different in German, but I doubt it). So few people would stop and think about the specific meaning of this particular word. They would interpret the expression as a whole.

That being said: in this context Sei/Zij would translate to "being" or "is". You can literally translate it to "God is being thanked".


Why is there "sei", that is the question. It might actually be defective. Just as wrong as:

God be thanks.

Because it is not God who is, it is to God belongs our gratitude, or to God is gratitude due.

"sei" is the hortative mood of is.

It is similar to "Your will be done", where "be done" is also in this hortative or expectative mood. "Dein Wille geschehe" is the same form of "geschehen" as "sei" is of "sein".

Thanks be to God

is a liturgical response, and in German that exact response is

Dank sei Gott (dem Herrn).

That's why "Thanks be to God" is not the exact translation of "Gott sei Dank".

I think this one is the best exact translation:

To God be gratitude

realizing that "to" is like indirect object in English, and in German we use dativ. So Gott should be dativ form here, if we change the words a little while maintaining the same form, it becomes:

Dem Teufel sei Verachtung.

With this change of words, the article "der" became required thus revealing the dativ case.

  • hi! In my original question, I guessed Gott is the dative form of Gott (= to Gott). So yes, "To God be Thanks (should be given)",
    – Chan Kim
    Commented Sep 21, 2020 at 8:19
  • Another expression, according to DWDS, is dem Himmel sei Dank. It's hard for English speakers to get used to sentences where the subject does not come before the verb, and I struggled with Gott sei Dank. My thinking was that it's a fixed expression so it doesn't have to be grammatical. But it is grammatical after all, or at least no less grammatical than "Thanks be to God", which is the equivalent expression in English.
    – RDBury
    Commented Mar 3, 2022 at 3:45

"Thanks to god", where thanks is not used conjunctively, but as a noun.

  • 1
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