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What does Godspeed Mean?

Michael Pollick
Updated May 23, 2024
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To wish someone Godspeed is to ask for God's blessings on his or her endeavor, most notably a long journey or a risky but potentially rewarding venture. Some view godspeed as a more reverent alternative to "good luck," which arguably introduces chance and randomness into the mix, not divine providence. One might wish Godspeed on a relative embarking on a long business trip overseas, for example.

The confusion over the meaning of Godspeed, which may also be rendered as god-speed or even goodspeed, lies in the definition of speed. The original meaning of the Old English word speed had nothing to do with velocity, but rather prosperity and good fortune. The addition of God to the concept of financial bounty may sound jarring at first, but the word Godspeed was an acknowledgment of God's generosity and blessing. Speed in that sense was the righteous acquisition of wealth and property through hard work and reverent behavior.

Some sources suggest that the word Godspeed may have been a corruption of "good speed," a wish for a speedy journey aided by favorable winds and sailing conditions. Under this theory, the expression good speed eventually became god-speed and ultimately Godspeed. The application of a Deity's name was simply a happy accident. Indeed, there are some recorded incidents of "good speed" being used as a blessing for ship-bound passengers.

The Middle English translators of the Holy Bible also used the term Godspeed in several passages, primarily in the Old Testament to indicate a God-inspired prosperity. This would suggest two separate evolutions of the expression, based on two different translations of the word speed. To wish someone Godspeed would be to wish him or her a prosperous journey or successful endeavor, while to wish someone goodspeed would suggest a swift and safe trip.

The expression Godspeed has largely fallen out of popular usage, and is generally listed as archaic in many dictionaries. Some still use it as a more theological blessing than a simple "good luck" or "bon voyage," although the original meaning has been forgotten in the mists of time.

Language & Humanities is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Michael Pollick
By Michael Pollick
As a frequent contributor to Language & Humanities, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide range of topics. His curiosity drives him to study subjects in-depth, resulting in informative and engaging articles. Prior to becoming a professional writer, Michael honed his skills as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.
Discussion Comments
By anon262074 — On Apr 18, 2012

It's used a lot at the start of space missions (at least in movies).

By anon243300 — On Jan 27, 2012

All military movies use it, and now I'll start using it.

By anon241040 — On Jan 17, 2012

This term I came across in the "Angels and Demons" movie.

By anon193845 — On Jul 06, 2011

To FB 653178229: Austin Powers - The Spy that Shagged me, uses this term.

By anon173589 — On May 07, 2011

God's speed is much more than the human mind can comprehend. It relates to space/time travel which can be abundantly found in scriptural code. A good place to start, in relation to this article, would be where the master in the new testament gave talents and "went on a long journey." That's all that I am at liberty to say. Blessings.

By anon157596 — On Mar 03, 2011

While I was in the Marine Corps, we used it all the time. It was said to deploying units by other units that had just come back from over seas. I have since gotten out and I hear it every now and then.

By anon148191 — On Jan 31, 2011

For example, my college friend would say this to me before we went on a spring break trip.

By anon147929 — On Jan 31, 2011

Godspeed is a term used as a sentiment that you wish someone well on their journey. It should be taken as a compliment if someone says it to you.

By Ondrelique Ouellette — On Jan 21, 2011

Oh, it's definitely still in use. I've heard more than a few people say it, which is why I had to look up the meaning in the first place. I've also heard the term in movies, though I can't recall which ones.

By anon114045 — On Sep 27, 2010

Thanks very much for the info.

By love2learn — On Jun 04, 2010

Bartholomew Gosnold was the captain of the ship Godspeed which was one of the ships which sailed to America to colonize Jamestown, Virginia. Gosnold is considered to be the principle figure in the colonization of Virginia.

By tellastory — On Jun 04, 2010

I found online that there are several media forms with Godspeed as the title. 4 novels, 4 bands, 18 songs, and 5 albums. The dictionary may label the term as archaic, but it is still in use, if in a different form.

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick
As a frequent contributor to Language & Humanities, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a...
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