Did someone use the phrase 'for goodness sake' and you’re wondering what it means? In this article, we’ll take a look at the meaning, origin, examples, and more.
The phrase 'for goodness sake' is a minced version of the expression 'for God's sake.'
For example, when someone says 'oh my gosh' instead of 'oh my God,' they are using a minced version of the latter expression.
This particular idiom can be used in three different ways:
There are a number of different euphemistic replacements that can be used to stand in for the word 'God' in this phrase, such as in another popular version of this expression, 'for Pete's sake.'
According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the phrase 'for the sake of' and 'for [something or someone's] sake' meaning "out of regard for or consideration of" a person or thing, dates back to around the year 1200. The phrase 'for God's sake' emerged in the early 1300s.
It is thought that these particular formations derive from Norse rather than Old English.
The word 'goodness' was actually first recorded in the expression 'for goodness sake' in the early 1600s.
The original meaning of the phrase meant "decent, honest, good, or pure." Basically, the notion of doing something 'for goodness sake' meant to be honest, do the right thing, or do good.
We find this expression in Shakespeare's Henry VIII right in the prologue:
"Therefore, for goodness' sake, and as you are known
The first and happiest hearers of the town,
Be sad, as we would make ye: think ye see
The very persons of our noble story
As they were living; think you see them great,
And follow'd with the general throng and sweat
Of thousand friends; then in a moment, see
How soon this mightiness meets misery:
And, if you can be merry then, I'll say
A man may weep upon his wedding-day."
Some have also attributed the phrase to Plato's Republic, as it is found in some English translations during the section where Glaucon works to encourage Socrates to continue forward in his consideration of the concept of 'goodness.' In these translations, Glaucon tells Socrates he should carry forth 'for goodness' sake.'
Using the Google Books Ngram Viewer, we see that this expression appears in texts for the entire period of time the tool examines English word usage.
The phrase appears in several early dictionaries and collections of etymological origins from the early 19th century.
In The Whole Work of John Howe from 1822, we find the expression in the following passage:
"He doth good for goodness sake; it is its own reward. It is not for vain glory, not for applause, not that he may draw on a good turn afterwards; it is not to gratify such and such, as hoping they may have opportunity afterwards to grafity him; but it is doing good because it is good for goodness itself's sake.' This is simple goodness, pure goodness, incorrupt goodness, unbribed goodness.'
Another example from the early 19th century is found in Volumes 1 and 2 of Legends of the Library at Lillie's from 1833:
"The key was-- begging you pardon-- in the pocket of my smalls; and my smalls were-- saving your presence-- under my pillow. Notwithstanding all these precautions, the door was thrown open with violence; and, by the light of the lamp on the stair-head, I saw a tall figure of a woman, with an article of white cotton drapery, rush to my bed's head. 'For goodness' sake,' help!' again it cried. I asked a few hurried questions, and felt much distressed; but the only answer I could obtain from her was, that I could save her life,-- perhaps more; for that she meditated a crime which I might prevent. 'For goodness' sake, help!' again she cried, I am on the point of committing suicide."
How would 'for goodness sake' be used in a sentence?
Let’s take a look at some examples:
What are some other words and phrases that have a similar meaning to 'for goodness sake'?
Here are some options:
The idiom 'for goodness sake' is used to express a range of emotions from surprise to annoyance. The tone of how the phrase is used helps to indicate the emotion that is being conveyed when a person says this phrase. It can also be used to add emphasis to another statement.
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