SNEEZING (O. Eng. fneosung, from fneosan, to sneeze, cf. Dutch fniezen, allied to the obsolete neeze, and ultimately to be referred to root seen in Gr. irvtiv, to breathe; the initial s is due to association with numerous words, such as snort, snuff, snore. etc.), a violent expiration of air from the nose and mouth; it is an involuntary reflex respiratory act; caused by irritation of the nerve-endings of the mucous membrane of the nose or by stimulation of the optic nerve by a bright light. The irritation may be due to the swelling of the nasal mucous membrane, which occurs in catching cold, sneezing being often a premonitory or accompanying symptom, or to foreign bodies in the nose, as by inhalation of snuff or other " errhines " or " sternutatories." A venerable and widespread belief survives in the custom of saying " God bless you " when a person sneezes'. The Hindus say " live," to which the answer " with you " is given (E.B. Tylor, Primitive Culture, i. 101). A sneeze was considered a sign or omen from the gods by the Greeks and Romans; it was one of the many common everyday occurrences which if coming at an important moment could be interpreted as presaging the future. There are many allusions to it in classical literature, e.g. Homer, Od. xvii. 561, Plutarch, Themist. 13, Xenophon, Anab. iii. 2 and Catullus, Carm. 45. There are references to it in Rabbinical literature, and it has been found in Otaheite, Florida and the Tonga Islands.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)