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many happy returns of the day Options
Daemon
Posted: Sunday, April 1, 2018 12:00:00 AM
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many happy returns of the day

I wish you a very happy birthday and many more like it in the future. More...

monamagda
Posted: Sunday, April 1, 2018 11:29:24 AM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 2/4/2014
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Location: Bogotá, Bogota D.C., Colombia

The term itself refers to the passing year. Since the 18th century this has been used as a salutation to offer the hope that a happy day being marked would recur many more times. It is now primarily used on birthdays; prior to the mid 19th century it was used more generally, at any celebratory or festive event. Current usage is often as a more formal option than 'Happy Birthday'. It is also often to be found on greetings cards.

An alternative explanation is that "returns" here is used in the sense of "yield" or "profit" that it is still found in "investment returns". Therefore "many happy returns of the day" would be a wishing a person a rewarding day, full of happiness.

Part of the phrase has been truncated. The full statement would read:

"[I hope you have] many happy returns of the day."

"The day" is your birthday, and if it returns "many times" it means that you will live to be quite an old person.

https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/40502/what-does-many-many-happy-returns-of-the-day-mean-in-context-of-a-birthday
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