Did someone tell you they hope you have the ‘happiest birthday’ ever? What does this phrase mean? Is it grammatically correct?
In this article, we’ll take a look at the answer to these questions and more. In short, ‘happiest birthday’ is a phrase that can either describe the most enjoyable birthday a person has experienced, or it can be used to wish someone the most enjoyable birthday ever.
‘Happiest birthday’ is a phrase that is sometimes used to describe or to wish someone the most enjoyable birthday they’ve ever had. However, ‘happy birthday’ is a much more common way both in everyday speech and in writing.
‘Happiest’ is the superlative form of the adjective ‘happy,’ which is defined as “showing or feeling contentment or pleasure.’ This means that simply saying ‘happiest birthday’ isn’t grammatically correct on its own because a superlative form takes the article ‘the’ beforehand.
You might also come across the phrase ‘happiest of birthdays,’ which is an example of an elliptical sentence. This means that, while it isn’t technically grammatically complete because of certain words being omitted from the sentence, it is accepted and understood as a part of English-speaking countries.
Since ‘happiest’ is the superlative version of ‘happy,’ it means that you wouldn’t just replace ‘happiest’ with ‘happy’ in the phrase ‘happy birthday.’
For example, let’s say you want to wish someone a happy birthday. To do so, you say, “I hope you have a happy birthday!” If you wanted to use the superlative ‘happiest,’ you would replace the ‘a’ with ‘the,’ turning the sentence into “I hope you have the happiest birthday!”
If you wanted to describe a particular birthday that you celebrated, that was the most enjoyable you’ve ever had, and you could say, “it was the ‘happiest birthday’ of my life!”
‘Happy birthday’ is a highly common way to tell someone celebrating their birthday that you are wishing them well. To tell someone, you hope they have the ‘happiest birthday’ is a way to express that you hope this is their best birthday yet.
The word ‘happy’ is an adjective that dates back to the late fourteenth century with the meaning of “prosperous, being in advantageous circumstances, favored by fortune, lucky.” The sense of the word meaning “very glad” was also recorded in the late fourteenth century. It appears that the use of the word meaning “greatly pleased and content” dates back to the 1520s.
‘Birthday’ is a noun that also comes from the late fourteenth century. With the definition of “celebration or anniversary of one’s birth,” the Old English word byrddæg first usually applied only to saints or kings. It wasn’t until about the 1570s that the word started being used to mean the “day on which one is born.”
Though the word ‘birthday’ seems to be at least several hundred years old, the concept of birthdays is much older. Scholars say that the earliest mention of a birthday dates all the way back to 3,000 B.C., in reference to a Pharaoh’s birthday.
Even though the idea of birthdays is thousands of years old, the notion that all people should celebrate their own birthday is quite modern. It wasn’t until somewhere around 1860 or 1880 that middle-class Americans began celebrating birthdays. The nationwide tradition of celebrating birthdays didn’t emerge until the early 1900s.
The famous song “Happy Birthday to You,” more commonly known as simply “Happy Birthday,” is thought to have been written in 1893, but the claim that it was written by American sisters Patty and Mildred J. Hill is disputed.
We find the use of the phrase ‘happy birthday’ using the Google Books Ngram Viewer dating back to 1914. In the publication Expositor and Current Anecdotes, we find ‘happy birthday’ used to describe a pleasant birthday a little boy had in the past:
“A little boy I once knew– he must be a man now, if he is alive– had had a very happy birthday. His parents had done a great deal for him.”
The phrase ‘happiest birthday’ appears even earlier using this Google Books tool, but to describe the best birthday a person had rather than the phrase being used as a way to wish a person well on their birthday.
In an 1844 publication entitled The Birthday: A Tale for the Young, we find the following:
“Mamma, I should like to-morrow to be a very happy day to all of us; I should like it to be the happiest birthday I ever spent.”
How would you use 'happiest birthday' in a sentence? Let’s take a look at some examples.
What are some other ways to wish someone the ‘happiest birthday’? Here are some options:
Wishing someone the ‘happiest birthday’ isn’t as common as the standard ‘happy birthday,’ but it is still a sweet and understandable sentiment that the receiver will much appreciate.
Remember, if you want to use this as a way to send your well wishes to someone, make sure you use the article ‘the’ rather than ‘a’ because ‘happiest’ is the superlative form of ‘happy.’
‘Happiest birthday’ is also a way to describe the most pleasant birthday someone has experienced, such as “my sixteenth birthday was my ‘happiest birthday’ ever!”
Is it your birthday today? If so, the entire Writing Tips team wishes you the ‘happiest birthday’ yet! If not, don’t worry. You can still keep learning about fascinating idioms and phrases on our idioms blog.