Many happy returns of the day is a phrase that is commonly used as a replacement for “happy birthday”, ‘merry Christmas’, or “happy new year”. It is a more formal use of an appropriate greeting or salutation.
Read more to learn about this English phrase, including where and how it is commonly used today.
History of Many Happy Returns
“Many happy returns of the day” is a formal way to say Happy Birthday, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, or any other day one would wish to return.
The earliest recorded use of the phrase was documented by Lady Newdigate of London, England on May 31, 1789. The letter was written to her husband, Sir Roger Newdigate, 5th Baronet, and wished him “many happy returns” on their upcoming wedding anniversary.
Though there was an earlier usage found in 1709 by Joseph Addison, the phrase’s attribution has been formally credited to The Newdigates.
Other Meanings Attributed
The phrase “many happy returns of the day” can also mean a yield or profit. If you wish an investor “many happy returns”, you’re wishing them good fortune and finances and their endeavors. While this attribution is less commonly used, it is still an acceptable form.
Another meaning of this phrase is implied to simply mean “I wish you a long life”. That is the short and sweet, and more informal, definition of the phrase.
When Should You Use The Phrase
Often times we do not use phrases because they can seem too wordy or stuffy. This is not untrue for the phrase “many happy returns of the day”. In truth, the phrase is stuffy and formal. This is why it is commonly found within greeting cards.
Most people do not use this phrase in everyday speaking conversations. It is reserved more for letters, cards, and other written documents.
Where to Use This Phrase
There are many different countries that use the English language as their official language. The UK, Australia, and Canada are all countries in which this phrase is commonly used. However, even though it is commonly used, it is still used mostly in more formal settings.
In the United States, however, this phrase is highly uncommon and you may get strange looks if you decide to use this in any type of informal, and sometimes even formal, settings.
Americans do not use this phrase. Instead, people from the United States will usually say Happy Birthday, Merry Christmas, or other direct greetings and salutations.
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