There is an idiomatic way to respond to someone sneezing in many languages, and Wikipedia has a list. Latin is not included.

Is there a canonical Latin reaction to someone sneezing? Any era of Latin is fine. I could always use a translation from some other language (e.g. saluti!, "for health!"), but I'd like to know an idiom already exists.

  • I had difficulties finding descriptive tags. Suggestions or edits are welcome if anyone has ideas. – Joonas Ilmavirta Feb 7 '17 at 14:16
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    There are many treaties just about this particular matter! For example, De l'usage de saluer et d'adresser des souhaits à ceux qui éternuent by Théodore de Jolimont, or in the Proclusiones academicæ, seu Orationes variæ by the Jesuit Father Strada (1625), a speech entitled A quo tempore, cur sternutentes salutantur (if anyone find it I would be grateful!). – Luc Feb 7 '17 at 14:19
  • @Luc I had no idea it was so broadly studied! Citing such sources (or even one) and mentioning their key results would make a good answer, if anyone has the time (and aptitude with French). – Joonas Ilmavirta Feb 7 '17 at 14:27
  • Neither do I :D – Luc Feb 7 '17 at 14:46

Interestingly, this practice does appear to go back to the Romans. Wilson D. Wallis, "The Romance and the Tragedy of Sneezing" (1919), writes:

Petronius, Apuleius and Pliny tells us of the Roman custom of saluting one who has sneezed [...] The Roman salutation was "Salve!" equivalent to our "May you have health!"

An indirect form of this, salvere iubet, is used accordingly in the Satyricon:

Dum haec ego iam credenti persuadeo, Giton collectione spiritus plenus ter continuo ita sternutavit, ut grabatum concuteret. Ad quem motum Eumolpus conversus salvere Gitona iubet.

I was just inducing him to believe me, when Giton burst with holding his breath, and all at once sneezed three times so that he shook the bed. Eumolpus turned round at the noise, and said "Good day, Giton."

More recently, in Conversational Latin for Oral Proficiency, John Traupman translates the English "bless you," specifically after a sneeze, as "salvē or salūtem."

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    I thought this practice would be younger, but I'm glad to be corrected! – Joonas Ilmavirta Feb 7 '17 at 14:16
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    The iubet part is merely part of the indirect phrase: "He ordered Giton to be well." If he ordered someone to be well, it's likely what he just said to him was a command: "Salve!" – cmw Feb 7 '17 at 14:27
  • @C.M.Weimer Ah, makes sense. Updated. – Nathaniel is protesting Feb 7 '17 at 14:29
  • The translation of the Satyricon by Heseltine is a catastrophe – fdb Feb 7 '17 at 17:54
  • Do elaborate, @fdb. – Canned Man Mar 26 at 20:25

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