A birthday is a special occasion for many — one where you will wish your friends or family a happy birthday to show them you care for them. Of course, we have many ways to say “Happy birthday,” but is it correct to say, “Happiest birthday”?
Saying “Happiest Birthday” is not proper. “Happiest” is a superlative adjective implying the best or greatest birthday. While you may want to wish them the happiest birthday yet, you do not want to suggest they will never have one better. You can wish someone to have “the happiest birthday yet” or even the “happiest birthday ever,” but it’s generally best to wish them a simple “Happy birthday.”
There will be an appropriate time to use “Happiest birthday,” so we will look at different occasions that call for different versions of the phrase “Happy birthday” in this article. Continue reading to learn more about how to wish someone a happy birthday properly.
What Does “Happiest of Birthdays” Mean?
According to The Merriam-Webster Dictionary, to be “happy” means enjoying or being characterized by well-being and contentment. As the superlative form, “happiest” describes the greatest degree of happiness.
A birthday can be a joyous day for someone when they celebrate the day they were born. It’s common practice to hold a party, give gifts, and provide cake when someone has a birthday. When wishing someone a happy birthday, you are using an abbreviated expression to say, “I wish you a happy birthday.”
In contrast, when you wish someone the “happiest of birthdays,” you want them to have the birthday with the most happiness. In other words, you wish them a birthday with the highest degree of satisfaction.
Is It OK to Say, “Happiest of Birthdays”?
“Happy birthday” can function as a stand-alone statement, although it’s technically a sentence fragment since it consists only of an adjective and a noun with no verb. We refer to such an expression as a sentence substitute, minor sentence, or elliptical sentence (source).
The same applies to “Happiest birthday” or “Happiest of birthdays,” although it is less common. It also functions slightly differently since it is in the superlative form. For example, you can use the preposition “of” as an adjective complement with the plural noun, but you would never say, “Happy of birthdays.”
Use the Definite Article
Moreover, when a word is in its superlative form, you usually need to place the definite article “the” before it. So in a full sentence, we would say, “Wishing you the happiest of birthdays” or “Wishing you the happiest birthday.”
In contrast, we would use the indefinite article “a” with “happy birthday” when saying, “Wishing you a happy birthday.”
Problems With Happiest of Birthdays
You would typically seek to avoid sentence fragments for formal writing, but wishing someone you know a “Happy Birthday!” of “Happiest of Birthdays!” is not an occasion for which such formality is generally appropriate or expected.
You might see someone capitalize “birthday,” while others leave it in lower case, which we’ll explain later on.
Using “Happiest of birthdays” has other problems, though. We use the superlative form “happiest” to compare one thing against a group and show that something is supreme or unsurpassed. In this case, without further qualification, we would be comparing one event, the birthday, to all past and future birthdays.
While the phrase generally implies that you wish that person to have the happiest birthday yet, “Happiest of birthdays” is perhaps not the best option. It might be better to say “Have a very happy birthday” instead.
Of course, when referring to your own experience, it’s perfectly fine to describe one particular birthday that you remember as being your happiest birthday.
When to Use “Happiest of Birthdays”
Since you do not want to imply that their best birthdays are now behind them, it might be best to say, “I wish you the happiest of birthdays yet.” While it might be implied in the previous examples, adding “yet” clarifies that you wish them the best birthday they have ever had to that point.
Since “Happiest of birthdays” leaves more room for confusion, it’s probably best that we use it in a complete sentence. Consider some of the following examples:
- We wish you the happiest of birthdays today.
- I wish you the happiest birthday yet to come.
- Wishing the happiest of birthdays to you, my friend.
The superlative form of an adjective is a way to compare an extreme, whether high or low, among a group of things, including events.
We can modify adjectives such as “tall,” “small,” and “happy” to form superlative adjectives. To do so, we must decide whether to add a suffix or place an adverb like “most” before it.
Rules for Two-Syllable Adjectives
The general rules for determining which one we should choose involve the number of syllables in a word, what letters are at the word’s ending, and where the stress falls when the word has two syllables. For words like “tall” and “small” that only have one syllable, we will simply change them to “tallest” and “smallest” (source).
However, words with two syllables often have two options. You will either choose to add the suffix -est or put the adverb “most” before it. However, since “happy” is a two-syllable word that ends in -y and a consonant, the proper superlative form is “happiest” (source).
Also, since “happy” has a “y” on the end, you will need to replace it with an “i” before adding the -est to make the superlative “happiest.”
In the examples below, you will also notice how “happiest” sounds better than “most happy.”
- You are the happiest I have ever seen you.
- You are the most happy I have ever seen you.
Most other two-syllable words use “most,” and often using “most” is the safest bet for two-syllable words. In addition, there are two-syllable words that will require “most” instead, including “famous” and “anxious.”
- She is the most famous singer I have ever met.
- I am the most anxious when I need to drive on the freeway.
Note how awkward it would sound if we tried to use “famousest” and “anxiousest” instead.
For more on the positive, comparative, and superlative forms, check out our article, “Busier or More Busy: Correctly Using the Comparative Form of Busy.”
What Is the Right Way to Say, “Happy Birthday”?
We do not lack options when it comes to saying “happy birthday” to your friend or family member. Using “happy,” you can simply say “Happy birthday” as a sentence substitute or minor sentence, or you can use it as part of a proper sentence.
If you insist on forming a complete sentence, there are several options:
- I hope you have a happy birthday, my dear friend.
- I wish you a happy birthday, friend.
- I hope you have a very happy birthday this year, friend.
- I wish a happy birthday to you, my friend.
Should You Capitalize “Happy Birthday”?
In personal greetings, it is common practice to capitalize both “happy” and “birthday,” but there’s no rule that states that you have to. For example, we usually don’t capitalize “happy birthday” in a sentence to describe wishing someone a happy birthday since “birthday” is a common noun (source).
Of course, if you began a sentence using “happy birthday,” you would capitalize “Happy” and leave “birthday” in lowercase.
- Happy birthday, John!
We use the comma to set off the name at the end of a sentence name when addressing someone directly. If you want to impress an English professor on their birthday, make sure you include the comma (source).
How Do You Say, “Happy Birthday to Both of You”?
Next, how do you say “Happy Birthday” to two people? You will do it the same way you would say, “Happy birthday” to one person, only you will add the prepositional phrase “to the both of you” to indicate wishing more than one person a happy birthday.
Wishing twins or even a couple who happen to share the same birthday a happy birthday can take as many forms as saying it to one person. The only additional step to take is adding the number of people or titles after the word “birthday.” You can also add the titles or numbers of people before “happy” or “happiest.”
It is correct to say, “Wishing you two the happiest of birthdays” or “Hoping for the happiest of birthdays for you both.”
- Happy birthday to both of my amazing friends.
- Wishing the happy couple a very happy birthday; enjoy your day.
- I would like to wish the twins the happiest of birthdays!
Is It Correct to Say, “Happy Belated Birthday”?
In addition to wishing someone “the happiest birthday,” we can wish them a “belated happy birthday” if we missed our opportunity to wish them a happy birthday on time. According to The Merriam-Webster Dictionary, belated means “delayed beyond the usual time” (source).
Use “Belated Happy Birthday”
As an adjective, we use “belated” before “happy birthday” to describe the message as late, whether by one day or any number of days after that.
In contrast, if we placed “belated” between “happy” and “birthday,” “belated” would imply that the birthday was late, which would not be the case. Therefore, “Belated” needs to modify the noun phrase “happy birthday” as a whole and not just “birthday.”
You can wish a belated happy birthday to one person or multiple people.
- Wishing you a belated happy birthday, friend.
- I apologize for missing your special day; belated happy birthday!
- Belated happy birthday wishes to you.
- I would like to wish you both a belated happy birthday
- Wishing you two a belated happy birthday.
Your personal life can get busy, whether it’s kids, doctor’s appointments, work, or school. A lot is going on in each of our lives, so, unfortunately, we often miss important events such as our friends’ anniversaries or birthdays.
In this case, you can still wish the person a “belated happy birthday” to show you care about their birthday even though you missed it.
We can also apply this reasoning to other events like anniversaries. Again, it is essential to note that you should place “belated” before the event, treating it as a noun phrase.
For example, you might wish a “Belated happy anniversary” or offer “belated anniversary wishes” to someone whose wedding anniversary you missed. You could also wish someone a belated work anniversary.
Some examples for both occasions are as follows.
- Wishing you and your beautiful wife a belated happy anniversary.
- Wishing you a belated happy work anniversary.
Is “the Happiest of Belated Birthdays” Correct?
Similarly, you will not say, “Wishing you the happiest of belated birthdays” since this would imply the birthday itself is late. While it would be more accurate to say, “Wishing you a belated happiest of birthdays,” this is still quite awkward.
This article was written for strategiesforparents.com.
It’s best to avoid having to offer belated birthday wishes, but, sometimes, they are unavoidable. It’s best to be polite and simply wish a “Belated happy birthday.”
In conclusion, it’s perfectly fine to use “Happiest birthday” or “Happiest of birthdays” in their proper contexts, but it’s generally best to stick with “Happy birthday.” If you want to wish the person a greater degree of happiness, you can simply wish them a very happy birthday.
When you do use the superlative form “happiest,” remember to use the definite article “the” before it in a proper sentence as in “Wishing you the happiest birthday.” Since “birthday” is a common noun, we don’t need to capitalize it, but it’s become fairly common for people to capitalize the adjective and the common noun in personal greetings.
You can wish a “happy birthday” to multiple people by adding the names or amount of people after the phrase. When life gets hectic, and you forget a friend or colleague’s birthday, you can use the word “belated” before the noun phrase “happy birthday.”