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Why Do We Clink Glasses And Say “Cheers”?

It’s customary to raise a glass and say “cheers” before we drink with friends, but have you ever wondered why we do it? And how do you say "cheers" in other languages? We have the answers.

Get ready to ring in 2020! At the stroke of midnight, many will most likely raise their glasses and say “cheers” and “toast” to the New Year. But why do we say it? And what is a toast? Where did these traditions come from? How do they say cheers in other languages?

Say “Cheers!”

“Cheers” originated from the old French word chiere which meant “face” or “head.” By the 18th century, it meant “gladness,” and was used as a way of expressing encouragement. Today, “cheers,” is simply a symbolic and succinct way of toasting with the wish of good cheer and good health to those around us – an exercise of camaraderie.

For some, it’s almost second nature to clink glasses with others before a drink. It’s a custom that has been practiced for centuries. Here’s a look at some of the reasons we engage in this practice:

Enhance the Senses: When drinking with friends, many senses are involved: You can see it, feel it, taste it and smell it. It is believed that clinking glasses was done during toasts, because sound helped to please all five senses, completing the drinking experience. Drinking is also a coming together of friends, so by physically touching glasses, drinkers become part of a communal celebration.

Warding Off Evil: In Medieval times, glasses were clinked and people cheered loudly to ward off any demons or evil spirits. It was also thought that you would clink glasses to spill some on the floor, leaving some for the bad spirits in hopes that they would leave you alone. A German tradition is to bang mugs of alcohol on the table and yell loudly to scare away ghosts or evil spirits.

Avoid Poisoning: There are some theories circulating that toasting was a way to avoid being poisoned. Back in the days when poisoning a foe’s drink was a convenient way to murder him, it was believed that if glasses were filled to the brim and then clinked hard, a bit of alcohol from each glass would pour into the other. Mixing drinks and then taking a sip was a gesture that the drinks were unharmed.

For the Gods: While the term “cheers” may not have been used per se, many ancient civilizations had their own way of honoring their gods during drinking ceremonies or feasts. Toasting is thought to come from sacrificial libations in which a sacred liquid (blood or wine) was offered to the gods in exchange for a wish, or a prayer for health. It was Greek and Roman tradition to leave an offering to the gods, including alcoholic beverages, during celebrations and commonly after a death. In Greek mythology, the god of wine, Bacchus, was often toasted. Today, we still raise our glasses upwards to the heavens as if offering to the gods a toast to the health of the living.

Check out our Best Days calendar to see when it’s best to host a party!

Where Does Toast Come From?

The term toast, as in drinking to one’s health, comes from the literal practice of dropping a piece of toast in your drink. In the 16th century, it was common practice to add a piece of scorched or spiced toast to wine. The bread would help to soak up some of the acidity and improve flavor in poor wine. As a bonus, it would also help to soften up stale bread. Shakespeare mentions the term toast in Merry Wives of Windsor, when Falstaff calls for a quart of wine and says “put a toast in it.”

By the 18th century, the term toast had meant a person honored by the toast, rather than an actual floating piece of bread. Hence the particularly popular is referred to as “the toast of the town.”

Humans have been cheers-ing, clinking glasses and toasting throughout history. So, gather round, raise a toast (non-alcoholic works fine too) and cheers to happiness, good health, and a long life ahead.

How Do They Say Cheers In Other Languages?

Here’s what they say to “toast” to good health in other countries:

  • Afrikaans – Gesondheid
  • Scottish, Irish Gaelic – Sláinte (pronounced slawn-cha)
  • Spanish – Salud
  • German – Prost
  • Danish – Skal –(pronounced Skoal)
  • Dutch – Proost (pronounced prohst)
  • French – Sante
  • Japanese – Kanpai
  • Portuguese – Saude

Do you know ways to say cheers in other languages? Tell us in the comments below!

Natalie LaVolpe is a freelance writer and former special education teacher. She is dedicated to healthy living through body and mind. She currently resides on Long Island, New York, with her husband, children and dog.

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Harriet Douglass

L’CHAIM. IN YIDDISH AND PROBABLY IN Hebrew. To life!

Pam

Noroc in Romanian

Nameless

The colourful salute can be traced to the Mandarin phrase qing qing, which is rarely used during toasts in China today. The phrase’s use in celebratory feasting was imported to Europe and adapted to local tongues after the Renaissance, when merchants, missionaries and adventurers returning from Asia shared etiquette they had picked up.

Federico Masini, a professor of Chinese language and literature at the Sapienza University of Rome, has introduced more than 1,000 Italian students to Mandarin over the past decade. Today, Mandarin is the third most widely taught foreign language in Italy after English and Spanish, with more than 100 students graduating each year from Sapienza.
According to Masini, the term qinq qing and its association with toasting was introduced to the Italian language at the end of the 17th century, meriting a mention in Tullio De Mauro’s Gradit dictionary, one of the most exhaustive Italian lexicons.

“The first mention of it is in a book published in 1666 by Florentine writer Lorenzo Magalotti called Relazione della China [Report on China],” Masini says. “The author recounts a colourful conversation with an Austrian Jesuit missionary priest returning from China, who told him about queer aspects of Chinese culture, including … the way people toasted by using a specific word.”

Magalotti’s book, which was not written in Latin but in vernacular Italian so more people could read it, was an immediate success. Enjoyed across Europe, it provided readers with vivid descriptions of Chinese habits that helped to shed light on East Asia, perceived as a distant and complex cultural universe. It was picked up by other authors and became part of the Italian literary canon, helping spread and transform qing qing into the more familiar, Italianised version of cin-cin which became part of everyday speech, Masini says.

It’s possible the qing qing toast spread from Italy to France, Masini adds, or it might have travelled directly from China by other means. According to France’s National Centre for Textual and Lexical Resources, the French-style toast tchin-tchin comes from the term tsing tsing in Chinese Pidgin English, an English adaptation of Cantonese Chinese spoken in Guangzhou in the 1600s.

WineLover

In Lithuanian you say “Į sveikatą” [to your health]

Robin Gill

It’s Polish it’s “na zdrowie” [to your health]
or “na pohybel”, which is much ruder and means literally [to the gallows with…]

reza

in Persian, you say “Salamati” meaning “to your good health”

Sj

In Turkish to toast/cheers you say: şerefe
(Pronounced shar-ef-eh)

Brandon Reda

Small side note:
Bacchus was the Roman god of wine, not Greek.
Bacchus was derived from Dionysus, the Greecian god of drunkenness, fertility, etc.

Just bugged me too much to not make this minor correction.

Greg

And stolat from Poland means to live a thousand years or something like that

Larry buxmann

We say pronounced “doe de na” to the bottom in russian

Barbara Pacyna

In Polish, it’s “Na zdrowie”. It’s translation to English is “To your health”.

Christine (Planutis)Santee

The common term in Lithuanian is “sveiks’, although I could not verify this in looking on the Web under Lithuanian language. It is an ancient Indo-European language in which many other countries have similar words. It may be of interest to readers to look up this very old and rather difficult language so many mistake for Russian-not so!! As a second generation Lithuanian from Chicago, learning the language was required in grammar school and was not popular among us-to my regret, I must admit.

Linda Widstrand

This is Swedish “cheers” Like the Danish word.
Skål

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