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What are the lyrics to Auld Lang Syne and what do they mean? Why do we sing this centuries-old folk song on New Year’s Eve?



Millions of us around the world will ring in the New Year on Tuesday by belting out a rousing rendition of Auld Lang Syne.

The festive sing-a-long is a favourite on December 31 as people cross their hands and mark the beginning of the year with a chorus of the old-timey classic, whether we know the words or not.

But how many of us actually know the lyrics to the centuries-old Scottish folk song, and what do they really mean? 


Here’s the lowdown.

What does Auld Lang Syne mean? 

Auld Lang Syne is old Scottish slang which can be roughly translated into modern English as “old long since” – or, in more conversational English, as “days gone by”, “old times” or “long, long ago”.

So it means that during the chorus when everyone sings “for auld lang syne”, this can be translated as “for the sake of old times”.

Poet Robert Burns is often credited with writing the lyrics sometime in the late 1700s, but even he admitted it was based on a much older Scottish folk song.

The poem is known to millions around the world as a song to be sung to a traditional folk tune to welcome in the new year – but it’s not just limited to New Year’s celebrations. It is also sung at funerals, graduations and as a farewell song at other occasions, including by the Scouts to close jamborees.

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Why do we sing it?

The song emerged at a time during the nineteenth century when the Scots were immigrating in vast numbers to America and Canada. 

In 1929, band leader Guy Lombardo and his band played the song during a year’s New Year’s Eve concert at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City. The concert was broadcast live on radio and Auld Lang Syne was chosen to open it.

Lombardo said he first heard the old folk song from Scottish immigrants while he was growing up in Ontario, Canada

What are the lyrics to Auld Lang Syne?

Thankfully, the lyrics we sing today are a more modern version of Burns’ original Scots verse.

For example nowadays, we sing “my dear” instead of “my jo” and “pint cup” over “pint-stoup”.

Auld Lang Syne English translation

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.


CHORUS


We two have run about the slopes, 


and picked the daisies fine; 


But we’ve wandered many a weary foot, 


since auld lang syne.


CHORUS


We two have paddled in the stream, 


from morning sun till dine; 


But seas between us broad have roared 


since auld lang syne.


CHORUS


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.


CHORUS

 



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