The Meaning of Best Wishes: What It Is and How To Use It

This article will give you all of the information you need on the phrase best wishes, including its definition, origin, example sentences and more!

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What does best wishes mean?

According to Cambridge Dictionary, best wishes is a phrase that is used at the end of a letter to a familiar person. Oxford Languages also states that it can be used to express hope for someone’s welfare or future happiness, which does not necessarily have to be in a letter. It is one of many kind ways to sign a letter to a friend, pen pal, or family member.

According to Red Book Mag, traditionally one wishes a groom “congratulations” after a wedding, but a bride “best wishes.” This implies that the groom has made a great catch, but that the bride needs to be wished luck. Formerly, it was considered impolite to say the bride had made a great catch. Some believe that this is archaic to imply that being engaged is an achievement. 

On the other hand, according to Newport Wedding Glam, the separation of the terms is meant as respect; the woman is wished best wishes because if she was told congratulations, it would imply that she “won” something– her groom. The groom is congratulated because the bride accepted his proposal. Nowadays, this could still be considered archaic, because it does not take into account same-sex couples, nonbinary couples, or couples in which the bride proposes to the groom. Many use best wishes for both party members to avoid controversy.

What is the origin of the term best wishes?

According to Merriam-Webster, the term best wishes has been used to close letters since the 16th century. The Earl of Essex closed a letter in 1595 with “This is accompanied with my best wishes, from your lordship’s most affectionate cousin and friend.” Best wishes has been used as a sign-off for over 400 years! The English word “best” originated in the epic poem, Old English Beowulf.

The phrase best wishes was popularized in the early 20th century as a letter closing. Letters written by poet Dylan Thomas and author F. Scott Fitzgerald have both used the term best wishes in their published letters. The use of best wishes also gave rise to similar terms, including “I send my best,” “give them my best,” “my best,” and simply, “best.”

While the term is commonly only used today as a sign off for letters or emails, popular author and internet personality John Green has become known for using best wishes to sign off phone calls, according to Nerdfighteria. Urban Dictionary also states that John Green has repopularized the term. He discusses this in a YouTube video from February 2008. John is initially embarrassed about using the phrase, but he then decided to use the term as often as possible to bring it back into common vernacular.

How can best wishes be used in a sentence?

While best wishes is commonly only seen in cards or letters in the modern day, it can also be used in polite conversation. Below are a few examples of situations in which the phrase best wishes is appropriate to use.

Kayla writes a letter to her Granny thanking her for the Christmas present she received. She ends the letter with the following.

I hope you and Grandpa have an amazing new year, and I look forward to seeing you next year.

Best Wishes,

Kayla

Here, Kayla uses best wishes as a polite way to sign a letter to her grandmother. Next, Luke is writing an email to a client who has just had their first baby. His email reads as follows.

Dear Patricia and Alex,

Congratulations on the birth of your son. Best wishes to the both of you on this incredible journey. Get some sleep, you’ll be short on it for the next eighteen years!

Sincerely,

Luke

Finally, Cindy and Marcia are discussing another one of their coworkers, Matt, who has been out of the office while his wife was in the hospital. Marcia is good friends with him, whereas Cindy just found out.

Marcia: She should recover soon, but it was touch and go for a while. We were quite worried.

Cindy: Oh my goodness, that’s devastating. Please give him my best wishes for a speedy recovery when you talk to him.

Marcia: I will!

Here, Cindy uses best wishes to ask Marcia to pass along her kind hopes to Matt and his wife during a troubling time. Best wishes can be used in any of these circumstances to wish someone well in the future.

What are synonyms for best wishes?

The term best wishes has many synonyms that can be used in its place. They are listed below from Thesaurus.

  • Compliments
  • Courtesies
  • Deference
  • Devoirs
  • Greetings
  • Regards
  • Salaam
  • Salutations
  • Kind Wishes
  • Felicitations
  • Hear hear
  • Best of luck
  • Affectionately
  • Warmly
  • Warm Regards
  • Kind Regards
  • Sincerely
  • Respectfully
  • Cordially

Overall, best wishes is a phrase that is used to wish someone well in their future endeavours, well being, or health. It is commonly used to sign off letters and emails, and is considered a very polite and friendly phrase. 

Sources:

  1. https://www.thesaurus.com/browse/best%20wishes
  2. https://www.grammarly.com/blog/wish-you-all-the-best/
  3. https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/best-wishes
  4. https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/best-as-a-letter-closing#:~:text=The%20origin%20of%20best%20as,letter%3A%20%22This%20%E2%80%A6%20is%20%E2%80%A6
  5. https://www.redbookmag.com/life/friends-family/a46824/sorry-im-not-going-to-congratulate-you-on-your-engagement/#:~:text=%22It%20is%20traditional%20to%20say,say%20that%20the%20bride%20had.%22
  6. http://www.newportweddingglam.com/etiquette-101/etiquette-101-best-wishes-or-congratulations/#:~:text=Those%20of%20you%20who%20answered,has%20won%20something%20%E2%80%93%20her%20groom
  7. https://nerdfighteria.com/lexicon#:~:text=Best%20Wishes%20%2D%20(n.),bring%20it%20into%20the%20vernacular
  8. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I4obRugaYuc
  9. https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Best%20Wishes
  10. https://www.ldoceonline.com/dictionary/best-good-warmest-etc-wishes