What Does“Auld Lang Syne” Mean? Where Did the New Year’s Song “Auld Lang Syne” Come From? And Why is “Auld Lang Syne” Sung Every New Year’s Eve?

This year, after wondering what the term “Auld Lang Syne” meant for the ump-teenth year in a row, I decided to look it up. So if you knew that auld lang syne is Scots (AKA Lowland Scots—historic language of the people of Lowland Scotland) for “old long since,” then you win this year’s bonus points. Woo!!!

As for me, I did not win the prize because I guessed auld lang syne might mean “old man time” … yup—totally wrong. And that perhaps it dated back to Roman, Latin, or Greek something … yup—wrong again! 🙂

New Year’s countdown clock in fireworks celebration image by Markéta Machová on Pixabay at https://pixabay.com/illustrations/new-year-pf-pour-f%C3%A9liciter-4656853/
New Year’s countdown clock in fireworks celebration image by Markéta Machová on Pixabay at https://pixabay.com/illustrations/new-year-pf-pour-f%C3%A9liciter-4656853/

Anyhow, yes, “old long since” is the literal translation, but a better translation that takes the underlying meaning into account would be “for old times’ sake.” (Scroll to the end of the post for lyrics, first in Scots, followed by a translation into English.)

As to where the song came from, it is based on an 18th century poem attributed to Robert Burns, the national poet of Scotland. I say “attributed” because Burns did not claim to have written it, but rather to have heard an old man singing it. I also find it interesting that Burns himself also wrote down a few different versions, with the words varying a little bit.

However, the part of the story connected to the Auld Lang Syne as a New Year’s song that I find most interesting is why Auld Lang Syne is traditionally sung every New Year’s Eve. It dates back to New Year’s Eve 1929 when Guy Lombardo and his band began playing it at midnight as the climax to their New Year’s Eve radio (and later television) broadcasts in North America. And the reason they chose Auld Lang Syne out of all the possible songs to play??? Because Lombardo’s national sponsor was Robert Burns Cigars (yes, the same Robert Burns attributed with penning Auld Lang Syne in the first place…).

So as you celebrate New Year’s and hear Auld Lang Syne, use your voice to sing, think fondly of old memories, and raise that pint glass in a toast for adventures yet to come! 😉

Happy New Year’s wishes, bubbling champagne in glasses and bottles over fantasy cloud-like background with large clock set to midnight image by JaymzArt on Pixabay at https://pixabay.com/illustrations/happy-new-year-watch-champagne-4722842/

Scots version

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne?

(Chorus)
For auld lang syne, my jo,
For auld lang syne,
We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

And surely ye’ll be your pint-stowp!
And surely I’ll be mine!
And we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

We twa hae run about the braes
And pu’d the gowans fine;
But we’ve wander’d mony a weary foot
Sin auld lang syne.

We twa hae paidl’d i’ the burn,
Frae mornin’ sun till dine;
But seas between us braid hae roar’d
Sin auld lang syne.

And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere!
And gie’s a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll tak a right guid willy waught,
For auld lang syne.

English version

Should old acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
And old lang syne?

(Chorus)
For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

And surely you’ll buy your pint cup!
And surely I’ll buy mine!
And we’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

We two have run about the slopes,
And picked the daisies fine;
But we’ve wandered many a weary foot,
Since auld lang syne.

We two have paddled in the stream,
From morning sun till dine;
But seas between us broad have roared
Since auld lang syne.

And there’s a hand my trusty friend!
And give me a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll take a right good-will draught,
For auld lang syne.