“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?


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"


| improve this answer | |
  • The OP asked about the literal meaning; they already knew its usage. – Fivesideddice Sep 19 at 6:29
  • Thanks for pointing that out. I got carried away :) – leun4m Sep 19 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.

| improve this answer | |

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".

| improve this answer | |

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.

| improve this answer | |
  • 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 Sep 21 at 8:19

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

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    I had voted your post up, but your profile image... I suggest to try to create a better impression in the visitors of your posts. This image origins in a faulty, layman try to restore an ancient Jesus picture. Avoid topics which make visitors emotionally engaged. – peterh - Reinstate Monica Sep 22 at 14:00

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.