8 Ways to Say Congratulations!
Joyful times go hand in hand with congratulations. When addressing graduates, newlyweds, or anyone with good news, a hearty “Congratulations!” is in order. Congratulants, people who congratulate, have been using this pluralized expression, which stems from the Latin gratus meaning “pleasing,” since the 17th century. The singular noun meaning “the act of congratulating” has been around since the late 16th century.
If you want to stand out from the crowd of people offering their congratulations, try roaring “Felicitations!” This less common expression of congratulations comes from the Late Latin felicitare meaning “to make happy.” English speakers have been using the singular form of this term since the early 1700s.
For some Victorian flair, opt for the ever-cheery hip, hip, hurrah! This expression of uncertain origin surfaced in the 1800s, though the exclamation hip had been used since the mid-1700s. Hip repeated three times was used as a noun in the 1800s to refer to a collective cheer. In an 1857 book called Glasgow and Its Clubs, the author discusses “the loud roar of harmonious ‘hip, hip, hips.’” But let’s not forget about hurrah. This exclamation dates from the late 1600s and is very similar to shouts in German, Danish, and Swedish. Hurrah might have started off as a battle cry before it spread into general usage.
Just as hips come in threes, so do cheers. Three cheers is generally followed by “for” and the name of the person or thing being celebrated. A person being cheersed might also respond to a toast of three cheers with the word cheers, which, especially in the UK, can mean “thanks.” The term cheer entered English in the late 12th or early 13th century, and ultimately comes from the Greek kára meaning “head.”
Though it sounds colloquial, kudos finds its roots in the hallowed halls of academic institutions. At the turn of the 19th century, academics transliterated the Greek kydos, meaning “praise or renown.” By the 1920s, kudos had spread beyond the walls of universities and into the columns of newspapers. Don’t be fooled by the s at the end of kudos; it is, in fact, a singular noun. However, enough English speakers have erroneously interpreted this s as a plural inflection that in the 1940s, the back formation singular kudo arose. Grammar sticklers avoid using kudo as a singular and kudos as a plural, however, these both can be found in popular usage.
When congratulations are in order, the term props might come up. This slang shortening of proper arose in the 1990s and refers to respect and esteem. In addition to giving and receiving props as recognition, you can do someone a prop to help him or her out. In the 1995 film Clueless, Cher notices that Josh is dancing with Tai, despite the fact that he never dances, to make her feel included. Cher explains: “He’s doing her a prop so she won’t feel left out.”
The phrase hats off, while often said to graduates wearing the illustrious cap and gown, has nothing to do with the tradition of tossing hats in the air in celebration. This phrase harks back to the custom of uncovering the head, or doffing the hat, as a sign of respect. Etiquette expert Emily Post advised gentlemen on the many situations in which they must remove hats to maintain politeness. In 1922 she wrote: “A gentleman takes off his hat and holds it in his hand when a lady enters the elevator …” He also lifts his hat whenever he asks a question or says “excuse me.”
This expression of congratulations and best wishes comes from the Hebrew term literally meaning “good luck.” Though many reserve the English good luck for before a big event, it’s appropriate to shout mazel tov! at any point during a celebration. The spelling mazel tov entered English in the 1860s, though it appeared in the 1600s spelled as missal tob. Whatever transliteration you prefer, the term has been lovingly said ever since.