Sincerely yours: Origins and Uses of 8 Common Sign-Offs
The word regard comes to us from the Old French regarder meaning “to look at.” This definition is still evident in its senses today, which range from “to look upon or think of with a particular feeling” to “respect, esteem, or deference.” When used as a valediction, regards is intended to indicate sentiments of esteem or affection, and often follows kind, warm, or best. Some consider variations such as warm regards ideal for conveying a balanced tone of friendly professionalism.
This term gained popularity in British English as a salutation before drinking in the early 1900s, but is now commonly used as a sign-off on both sides of the pond. The word cheer entered English with the sense of “face,” reflecting its Latin counterpart with the same meaning, cara. Eventually it took on a metaphorical sense of “mood or mental condition,” as reflected in the face, then gave way to senses of “gladness” and “joy.” Given the term’s mirthful history, this valediction is particularly apropos if the subject matter of your correspondence is celebratory or congratulatory in nature.
When English speakers first started using the term cordially, it carried a more impassioned sense than it does today. Its earlier sense was “with the deepest feeling” or “heartily.” This reflects its Latin root word, cor, meaning “heart.” The word now conveys more of a congenial tone than a sentimental one, but it registers as more formal and old-fashioned than many of the terms on this list, making it a less desirable option for those who want to keep their correspondences breezy.
As a sign-off, this simple expression of gratitude offers a range of interpretations, such as “thanks for your attention and time while reading this e-mail” or “thanks in advance for tending to the request that I outlined in this e-mail.” The earliest sense of the word thank, or panc as it appeared in Old English, was “thought.” Some prefer to liven up this now-ubiquitous sign-off with an exclamation mark (thanks!) or by incorporating it into more effusive expressions such as thanks so much.
The earliest definition of sincere is “free of falseness.” It comes from the Latin sincerus meaning “clean, pure, untainted.” The adverbial form sincerely appeared as a valediction in letters starting around 1700, and is still used as a sign-off with a sense of “in earnest” or “genuinely.” Some suggest that this salutation is best suited for letters, not e-mails, due to its formal tone.
This succinct sign-off appears to be a shortening of a range of superlative expressions, including “all the best,” “best wishes,” and “my best,” all of which are expressions of goodwill. The word best shares an Old English root with the word boot, which meant “good” when it entered English. Some consider best to be an abrupt and impersonal way to end a correspondence, but others enjoy its brevity and upbeat tone.
Variations on yours and yours truly have been favored valedictions among writers such as Charles Dickens, who signed letters to acquaintances “heartily yours” and “faithfully yours,” and Jane Austen, who famously ended letters between characters in Pride and Prejudice with “Yours, etc.” Yours connotes a level of devotion that might come off as too intimate for work-related correspondences, but lends itself to a range of fun possibilities for pairing with adverbs in personal contexts.
Respectfully connotes a level of esteem for the recipient of the correspondence. The base word, respect, comes from the Latin respectus, which translates literally to ” action of looking back.” In less formal correspondences, pairing this term with yours in constructions such as yours respectfully can have the effect of personalizing and softening the formal tone that the word evokes on its own.