WDTPRS POLL: “Blesséd” or “Blessed”

Today is the Feast of the Holy Name.  The feast reminds me of a question I have wanted to ask in a poll.

During the Divine Praises we bless the Holy Name of Jesus.

In some context we seem to use “Blesséd” and in others “Blessed”.

Is there a grammatical difference?

Is there a difference in meaning?

If during the Divine Praises one priest says “Blest be God” and another says “Blesséd be God”, are they saying different things?  Which best translates “Benedictus Deus. Benedictum Nomen Sanctum eius. … etc.)?

What do you say or prefer?

Please choose an answer and give your reasons in the combox below.

In the Divine Praises and refering to the Eucharist I prefer/hear/say ...

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46 Responses to WDTPRS POLL: “Blesséd” or “Blessed”

  1. Norah says:

    I have noticed that the nuns on EWTN say bless -ed (2 syllables) but in Australia we say blest (1 syllable) so it may be a country thing. The nuns say tress – passes with the accent on the passes but in Australia we say tres- pces.

  2. Banjo pickin girl says:

    Regional pronunciation differences are many. I make a hobby of studying accents in America and their origins. I am a blest person, bless-ed being used mainly for cadence purposes.

    I am from New England originally and also say tres-pces. I have had Ohioans correct me. They have a German accent, by the way.

    The Ay-men/Ah-men thing drives me nutz. In some places Aymen is restricted to Southern Baptists, so converts are shocked to discover that Catholics say Aymen.

    It’s probably like having an educated friend be shocked that you pronounce Latin with the ecclesiastical pronunciation rather than “weenee weedee weekee.”

  3. robertotankerly says:

    The pronunciation “blessèd” as opposed to “blessed” is a relic of the way in which all words formed on such a model used to be pronounced in English. For example, in Shakespeare’s day, one would not have said “I walked to the store,” but “I walkèd.” It was, however, possible in Shakespeare’s time to contract the final syllable, and when it was necessary to do so for the sake of meter, Early Modern English poetry denotes this with an apostrophe: “walked” with one syllable, as we now always pronounce it, would be written “walk’d”.

    I gather “blessèd” hung around while the standard pronunciation changed due to its frequent use in Scripture and the Liturgy. That being said it could be random, as “naked,” “wretched,” and “wicked” all seem to have tagged along.

    At the end of the day, then, it is not a matter of the “correct” pronunciation so much as it is a matter of personal preference, or perhaps aesthetics. I prefer the older “blessèd,” at least in the Liturgy, as I think it lends added solemnity by the very fact of its archaic nature.

    In the same vein, I would also prefer the new translation made use of more such archaisms like “we beseech,” “brethren,” (especially considering the fact that it’s the exact English corollary of the gender-neutral Latin masculine plural) and even “thee’s” and “thou’s.” But I’ll take what I can get, and thanks be to God for it.

  4. Dr Guinness says:

    Generally I follow a simple rule – when ‘blessed’ is used as a noun, it’s “bless-ed” (2-syllables), however when used as a past-tense verb, it’s “blesst”.

  5. Tom Esteban says:

    I don’t even know how to explain the way I use it. I guess Dr Guinness uses it the same way I do. When I say something like “Blessed are you O God” I mean that God really is the Blessed One, and so I use two syllables. When I say something like “Father Z blessed my journey” I use one sylllable.

  6. jbas says:

    I’m a hard core two syllable man. And “Holy Ghost”. And “brethren”. And “choir mistress”.
    I suppose I subscribe to the pronunciation and vocabulary of continuity, rather than rupture, philosophy.

  7. Supertradmum says:

    Grew up with the two syllables and let us not forget that the vast majority of people in the States do not or did not have English as their primary language, so the differences will be according to how they learned English. And I mean our ancestors as well-did not have. In addition, there has to be more sensitivity to the fact that liturgical language is not the same or should not be the same as daily language. I say Holy Ghost and probably irritate the rest in the church in the morning for the rosary, but I have noticed over the years that traddies say Ghost more than not. How about another poll on Ghost and Spirit?

  8. arbogene says:

    I say bless-ed when praying the Divine Praises…that’s how i learned in N Ky (lots of German-influenced English there I suppose) as a child…now we do day, “Bless-ed JPII” (not, “Blest JPII)…so maybe “bless-ed” and the sense of “beatification” applies when praying the Divine Praises(?)

  9. jeffreyquick says:

    I avoided “bless-ed” in my musical setting of the Beatitudes, because it’s the only past tense treated that way, and none of the rest of the text was in archaic English. This seems to have worked against its popularity. Since I spent a big chunk of time as an Anglican Catholic, I’m pretty comfortable with BCP English, and am traddie in general, but I like consistency. Nobody takes their children or their throats up to be “bless-ed”. I’m a “Holy Spirit” guy. And DEFINITELY “Ah-men”; it’s not an English word, it’s Hebrew through Latin, and I was shocked when I converted to find Catholics sounding like crackers. Where I am now, the rule is to sing “Ah-men” while everyone (except me) says “Ay-men”, which is correct but schizoid. And after training myself to say “And also with you”, upon reversion to the proper translation I sometimes slip and say “And with THY spirit.”

    I noticed the other day that the ELCA Lutherans had stolen the whole miserable old-ICEL mess from the Papists. I wonder if they’ll ever adopt the new translation. Or if they’ll become a refuge for Catholics who think that New ICEL is intolerable (just as they were a refuge for George Tiller).

    And a question: if we can say the Lord’s Prayer as-is because it’s how everyone knows it, why can’t we sing “Good Christian MEN rejoice” for the same reason?

  10. dep says:

    It depends on the part of speech. When it is an adjective, it is two syllables. When it is past-tense verb, it is a single syllable:

    “The bishop blessed him” — one syllable

    “We are a blessed people” — two syllables

  11. disco says:

    I think you’ll find the folks who prefer blessed (1 syllable) for the divine praises also prefer “blessed (1 syllable) are you among women” in the angelic salutation.

  12. sejoga says:

    I’ve always kind of thought of “blest” meaning something different from “bless-ed”. The best way I can think of describing the difference is to say it’s analogous to the difference between “sick” and “sickly”. In the one case, it describes something circumstantial and transient, but in the other case it implies something inherent or immutable. So if someone complimented me on my family or something I would say, “Yes, I’m very blest” since the blessing I feel is dependent on something. However, if I encountered some holy man or woman and someone asked me what I thought of that person I would probably say, “She seems very bless-ed” since it seems, to me, to reflect a characteristic of the person herself.

    So in the Divine Praises, and really in most prayers or other religious texts I can think of, I tend to say “bless-ed”. God’s blessedness is definitely something inherent and immutable, not something transient and dependent.

  13. Faith says:

    I use both. It depends on the cadence of the reading. Is it poetry? Is it a magazine article? The same with Israel. If it’s a proper address in a Biblical reading and the cadence of the verse fits, I say
    Is-rye-elle.

  14. Joe in Canada says:

    I agree with what everyone has said! I would add that sejoga is on to something. Those who pronounce blessed two ways possibly also make an occasional distinction between the pure adjective “blest” and the passive participle “blest”. These participles are a bit “old fashioned” in English and perhaps are slowly moving out, but some forms persist.

  15. Titus says:

    It seems like these are not really the same word, at least not today:

    “Blesséd be God.”

    “We have been blessed.”

    “Blesséd art thou amongst women.”

    “Father blessed the house.”

    Blessed is the second (and third) principal part of the verb to bless.

    Blesséd is an adjective (operating at times as a noun) meaning “holy” or “consecrated.”

  16. LorrieRob says:

    In the Divine Praises or Holy Rosary I pronounce bless/ed with two syllables but when speaking in more general terms of people I would pronounce it as one syllable. This seems to be common in my location(Tampa Bay Florida). But I am curious about ah/men vs ay/men. I converted out of the Anglican tradition and have always said ah/men just as we sing it at the Great Amen. I am curious of the origin of the ay/men pronunciation when spoken. Should I change my preferred pronunciation to blend in as a part of unity? Or do other Catholics use these pronunciations interchangeably?

  17. disco says:

    Lorrierob: aymen when spoken in English. Ahmen when sung in English or spoken or sung in latin.

  18. irishgirl says:

    I say ‘blessed’ with two syllables when saying the Divine Praises and referring to the Sacrament of the Altar. Ditto when saying the Hail Mary.
    But I’ve also heard the one-syllable version, too.
    Guess it depends on the context….

  19. kat says:

    Two syllables, unless I am referring to the past tense of the verb “to bless”, when it is one syllable, as in “Father blessed the articles.”

  20. NoTambourines says:

    One interesting point this brings about is that, for all of the related alarmism about the corrected translation, we already have kept and evolved a special liturgical/devotional language with special terminology. I don’t say “trespasses” or “bless-ed” in the course of normal business (though it could spice up staff meetings), but I know what they mean and am comfortable with them in their context.

  21. ContraMundum says:

    Two syllables as an adjective (“Blessed art thou among women”) or a noun (“Pope John Paul II is now a blessed”). One syllable as a verb (“Before eating he blessed the meal”).

  22. pelerin says:

    I agree with dep and titus – they are two different parts of speech and so should be distinguished as such. Benediction is still rare in English parishes but when it is said then ‘Bless- ed’ with two syllables seems to be the norm as it was some 50 years ago when I first attended Benediction.

  23. Really depends on where I am, whether I use one or 2 syllables.

  24. chonak says:

    I think the accent mark runs the other way: blessèd.

  25. quamquam says:

    A priest once explained to me that he used 2 syllables if it was translating ‘beatus’ and one syllable if it was translating ‘benedictus’. I think he argued that in the former case the English term will be operating more like a normal adjective, but in the latter case the English term will be operating more like a past participle of ‘bless’ (even if used adjectivally), and in parallel cases in English we normally use only one syllable for the past participle (e.g. ‘praised’). Regardless of the validity of the argument, it has the value of making a distinction in English where there is also one in Latin. But at least at the beginning, it breaks the natural flow of speech as you try to think what the Latin is!

  26. APX says:

    We say blesséd when we say the Divine Praises. As others have mentioned, there is a difference in when to pronounce it as one syllable and two syllables based on how it is being used as a part of speech.

    General grammatical rules for English in North America are as follows:**

    Blesséd
    -When it’s used as a title
    -When it comes immediately before the verb
    -When it’s being used as an adjective before the noun

    Blessed/Blest
    -When it’s used as an adjective following the verb
    -When it’s used as a past tense verb

    For the purposes of the Divine Praises it should be pronounced as two syllables.

    **It should be noted that those lame church songs don’t follow these rules. IE: “Blest be the Lord” should really be, “Blessed be the Lord”.

  27. Tina in Ashburn says:

    I am used to hearing/saying ‘bless-ed” in the Divine Praises. Whichever, doesn’t make a diff to me.

  28. JMody says:

    I always thought it had two “stylelated reasons and no grammatical difference whatsoever:
    1) Since we don’t talk that way, it is part of the “Church-only” language, like the older forms of 2nd-person singular thou/thee/thy/thine for you/you/your/yours to remind us we are somewhere different doing something different, and
    2) METER – that extra syllable helps it start to seem almost a bit poetic sometimes.

    Of course, the real fix would be to just get rid …

  29. bbmoe says:

    Hey, I’m from the South: if it were just one syllable, we’d have to put another one in their, y’all.

  30. Stephen Matthew says:

    It seems to work better with two when chanting/singing the Divine Praises.

  31. worm says:

    Agree with prior posters. Whether correct or not, I tend to use 2 syllables when using the adjective and 1 syllable when using the verb.

    He is blest. — passive voice. God is understood as the source of the action. He has been given many blessings/gifts.

    He is bless-ed — An adjective describing “he”. He is a holy person.

    I assume everyone is using the accent to signal the fact that there is a distinct second syllable. I have nerver heard the accent actually placed on the second syllable.

  32. Never thought about it before, but I do say it with two syllables in that sort of context e.g. “bless-ed art thou among women”.

    Past tense e.g. “the priest blessed the rosaries” is definitely one syllable though.

    OTOH “Blest be the Lord” doesn’t sound wrong to me at all, so there may be more to it…

  33. Sixupman says:

    What about the missing third comma at The Sanctus?

  34. asperges says:

    English does not suffer from diacritical marks: they are not even required on foreign words such as “cafe,” so the acute accent quoted above is purely for demonstrative purposes.

    I have read all of the above and tried to find clear guidance. The entry in the Oxford English Dictionary is very long (5 columns) but buried in it is the following: “The past tense (pt) and the past participle (pp) are now generally spelt ‘blessed’ although always pronounced ‘blest’ in modern prose. The pp may be pronounced ‘bless-ed’ in verse or liturgical reading.

    As an adjective, ‘bless-ed’ is the regular prose form, but the archaic ‘blest’ is frequent in verse and in traditional phrases such as ‘The Isle of the Blest.'” So that is very clear.

    It is dangerous to quote Shakespeare as a guide. He played with different forms of words and invented many more at a time of great linguistic upheaval. “We are blest in the change” (Henry V Act 1) – a past participle; and : “He is the half part of a bless-ed man / Left to be finish-ed by such as she; / And she a fair divided excellence, / Whose fulness of perfection lies in him.
    (King John. Act ii. Sc. 1.) has adjectives and past participles all pronouncing the -ed.

  35. It depends for me whether it is used as an adjective or as the past tense of the verb “to bless.” I say the Bless-ed Virgin Mary, but I also say that she was blest by God. For the Divine Praises I say Bless-ed be God, etc. So I cast a vote f0r bless-ed with reservations.

  36. Precentrix says:

    The priest blessed the congregation – one syllable.
    Blesséd art thou among women – two syllables, almost an adjective like ‘hallowed’.
    Blesséd be God – two syllables.
    Blest… roughly equivalent to the two-syllable ‘blesséd’ but I have a sort of distinction in my mind.

  37. Warren says:

    As dep, titus and others have said, same for me.

  38. Centristian says:

    I am an American living in a mid-Atlantic state but I have also lived in New England, the Midwest, and the West, and I have never heard “bless’d” (one syllable) uttered in the Divine Praises, just as I have never heard anyone refer to the “Bless’d Sacrament” as opposed to the “Bless-ed Sacrament”. I have never heard anyone say “bless’d art thou amongst women,” either.

    I have heard “bless’d are YOU AMONG women,” which drives me nuts, as it generally drives me nuts whenever anyone replaces “thou” with “you” in traditional prayers. I use “Holy Spirit” and “Holy Ghost” interchangeably, and likewise “Ah-men” and “Ay-men”. Either/or. Makes no difference to me.

  39. Blaise says:

    Does it make a difference if we are translating “Beatus” or “Benedictus”?

  40. letchitsa1 says:

    I think you need an option for “both” because which one gets used around these parts is usually determined by the part of speech it is holding. Adjectival/adverbial – the ed gets emphasized. As a verb, it does not. Then, of course, there is the lazy, poor enunciation option – also common around here – which uses the unemphasized -ed ending all the time regardless.

  41. letchitsa1 says:

    My earlier comments aside, though, for the Divine Praises, I use two syllables.

  42. aspiringpoet says:

    I always hear “blessed” with two syllables, and in my opinion it sounds better, but I would not be bothered to hear it the other way. As far as I can tell, the meaning is the same.

  43. Catholictothecore says:

    I’ve always said bless-ed with two syllables when saying the Divine Praises and the Hail Mary.

  44. aladextra says:

    This might seem a bit trivial at first, but I think these questions are really interesting as part of the effort to recover our distinctive Catholic identity. I agree with what most have said about the distinction in meaning between blesséd and blessed.

    In the case of Holy Spirit and Holy Ghost, both have been used in English for a very long time. At one time Holy Ghost was much more common, but faded somewhat after the Spiritist movements of the 19th and early 20th centuries, for good reason. I actually think both are needed, because Holy Ghost connotes more of a specific person, which of course He is, as opposed to a pantheist-style spirit which inhabits everything. On the other hand, the term “ghost” today conjures up will-o-wisps in the graveyard, and is bracing to younger Catholics. So we have to keep both in English I think.

    One other trend I think is worth exploring as well, which is the substitution of “Eucharist” in place of “Blessed Sacrament”. Again, both words have been in English for a long time, but the favoritism of “Eucharist” feels off to me somehow as more adopting the language of non-Catholic communities, despite the obvious and complete legitimacy of the term.

  45. Titus says:

    One other trend I think is worth exploring as well, which is the substitution of “Eucharist” in place of “Blessed Sacrament”.

    Throw a “Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar” into your speech every once and a while and you’ll clear up those ambiguities.

  46. lethargic says:

    Things are blest. People, including the Blessed Sacrament, are bless-ed. Well, that’s how I was raised. A commenter above noted that the verb form is one syllable, which I didn’t think of, but use in that way.