How to Say Happy Birthday


Is someone important in your life having a birthday but you’re not sure how to say it? Or do you want to say something more special than a simple “Happy Birthday”? Try some of the following suggestions and find the perfect way to tell your loved one happy birthday!


Saying Happy Birthday Through Words

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1. Find an alternate way to say happy birthday. Instead of reciting the tired and boring “Happy Birthday,” come up with a different phrase to tell the birthday girl or boy. The point of a birthday message is to wish her happiness, luck, and warm wishes on her special day. Think of a way you can pass this along in a unique, different way. If you can’t think of any, try some of the following:

  • Many happy returns! or Many happy returns of the day!
  • Warm wishes on your birthday!
  • Wishing you a year that’s blessed.[1]
  • Hope you have a day/year to remember.
  • Happy day-you-entered-this-world.
  • Wishing you all the best/that your dreams come true/you happiness and luck.[2]
  • Eat, drink, and be merry!
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2. Tailor the birthday message if it’s a milestone birthday. Milestone birthdays occur when a person hits a significant age. This may vary from culture to culture, but common milestone birthdays are: 13, 16, 18, 21, 30, 40, 50. After 60, every 5 years is a milestone.

  • For a milestone birthday wish, make sure to emphasize the age. Tailor the wish around why the milestone is so important. At 13 a child is finally a teenager, at 16 the child can finally drive, and 50 is considered over the hill.
  • Milestone birthdays are a great time for humor, especially as people grow older. Before you make a joke about someone’s age, determine if it is appropriate to joke about it. Some people are extremely sensitive about their age. You don’t want to hurt her on her birthday.
  • For a generic joke about getting older, try: That’s a lot of candles. Try not to burn down the house!; At this age, everything either hurts or doesn’t work; or a joke about being over the hill.[4]
  • For something more positive about getting older, try: 40/50 and fabulous!; 50 is nifty; Like a fine wine, you just get better with age; Don’t think of it as getting older, think of it as getting better; Count the age, not the wrinkles; You look too good to be this old; You have to grow older, but you don’t have to grow up.[5]
  • For someone turning 16, make a message about driving: I hope the world can handle you on the road!; I can’t believe I used to help you cross the street, and now you’re going to be driving down it.[6]
  • As children hit milestones, focus on her transitioning from a kid to an adult: Welcome to the world of adults!; I’m proud you’ve become such a responsible young man/woman.[7]
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3. Wish happy birthday in a different language. Instead of wishing someone happy birthday in English, try sending her wishes in another language. Choose the language of a place the person loves or has always wanted to go to. Find audio clips of the phrase online so you can practice. Try learning happy birthday in the following languages:

  • Mandarin: qu ni sheng er kuai le
  • Japanese: Otanjou-bi Omedetou Gozaimasu!
  • Punjabi: Janam din mubarak!
  • Spanish: Feliz Cumplea–os!
  • Afrikaans: Gelukkige Verjaarsdag!
  • Arabic: Eid milad sa’aid! or Kul sana wa inta/i tayeb/a! (masculine/feminine)
  • French: Joyeux Anniversaire!
  • German: Alles Gute zum Geburtstag!
  • Hawaiian: Hau`oli la hanau!
  • Yoruba: Eku Ojobi![8]
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4. Send the person a message. Instead of finding an alternate way to say the words “happy birthday,” send a longer message with “happy birthday” at the end. If you don’t know the person very well, you can send her a message wishing her happiness and prosperity. If you are close to the person, you can let her know how much she means to you. Try some of the following messages:
  • Blowing out another candle means you’ve lived another year. Make every day and every candle count. Happy birthday!
  • Be happy because today was the day you were brought into this world. You make the world a better place by being in it. You deserve all the happiness in the world.
  • Instead of a message, try famous quotes: Life is a journey. Enjoy every mile; It’s the journey that counts, not the destination.[9]
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5. Be funny or professional in a birthday wish to a coworker. Wishing a coworker happy birthday can be a bit tricky. Maybe you work alongside each other, but don’t know each other. You don’t want to be impersonal with a simple “happy birthday,” but you also don’t want to be too personal and overstep boundaries. Decide if you should be professional or funny with the co-worker. That will determine the message you leave for her. Try some of the following:
  • All the best in the year to come!
  • It’s a pleasure to work with you. Warm wishes on your special day.
  • You work hard all year round, so don’t work too hard on your birthday. Have a great day!
  • You make work feel a lot less like work. Thanks for all you do around here! Happy birthday.
  • I didn’t bring the cake, but I’ll absolutely eat a slice in your honor. Here’s to you![10]
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    6. Choose an appropriate closing for a letter or card. Instead of a message, write the person a letter. Let her know how much you appreciate her, share memories with her, and make her feel appreciated and loved. When you close, try some of the following birthday phrases:

    • Celebrating you
    • Cheers
    • Let us eat cake
    • Party on
    • Here’s to you[11]
    • Thinking of you
    • Hugs to you on your special day[12]


Saying Happy Birthday Other Ways

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1. Send a card in the mail. Instead of saying “happy birthday,” why not show it? People love getting things in the mail, so it will be an extra special surprise for her when she opens her mailbox. You can buy a funny card or a sincere card. You can also make your own card for a bit of a DIY personalized touch.
  • Sending a card shows you care because it shows that you took the time to purchase or make a card, and also that you thought about the person ahead of time.
  • Send a card that plays music to give the person an extra special surprise. Or buy a card where you can record your own voice so you can personally say happy birthday without physically being there.
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    2. Send a card through e-mail. If you didn’t think about it ahead of time, or you don’t know the person’s address, send an e-card. Many websites offer free cards that you can send as long as you know the person’s e-mail address. Type up your own message or give her a short greeting, and send away.

    • You can choose from thousands of different designs – funny, serious, animated, or with pictures of animals.
    • Some of the cards have short animated movies, play music, or are interactive. You can go as simple or elaborate as you want.
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    3. Tell the person happy birthday on social media. No matter if you are just acquaintances or best friends, wishing someone happy birthday on social media makes the person smile. To not be like all the other boring “happy birthday” wishes, personalize the message. Add birthday photos, or a photo of the person’s favorite celebrity. You can even find animated pictures to accompany your message.

    • Instead of a generic birthday photo, find a funny birthday picture on the internet and post it instead.
    • Make your own picture in Photoshop or Paint and post it for the person.
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    4. Send the person flowers, cupcakes, or other gifts. Cards are not the only way to tell someone happy birthday. Instead of sending a card, contact a local florist and send a flower arrangement. If she is not into flowers, send cupcakes or cookies from a local bakery.

    • Other ideas for surprise gifts include balloons, singing telegrams, fruit arrangements, chocolate covered strawberries, or truffles. Investigate what local businesses are in the person’s area that can deliver a birthday package.
    • If you don’t find anything local, go online. Many businesses do birthday packages and arrangements that you can order and have shipped to her home or workplace.
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    5. Bake a cake. Everyone loves cake on their birthday. A great way to say happy birthday is to write it on top of her favorite homemade cake! If you don’t want to bake a cake yourself, order a cake and have the bakery write a message on top of the cake with icing.

    • You can also do the same thing with cupcakes. Write a letter or a word on each cupcake to spell out a special birthday message.
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    6. Surprise the person. Think about ways you can surprise someone on her birthday. Maybe throw the person a surprise party. Show up at work to take her to lunch, or after work to take her to dinner. Bring her an extra-special gift she wasn’t expecting.

    • Make sure if you want to surprise the person and take her somewhere that you make sure she is available. You don’t want to have a party or special dinner planned when the person already has plans.



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