What are the lyrics to Auld Lang Syne, what does it mean and why do we sing it on New Year’s Eve?

Auld Lang Syne dates back hundreds of years (Picture: Getty Images)

New Year celebrations are taking place around the world, with the likes of Samoa and New Zealand already welcoming in 2020, as the UK prepares to do the same at midnight tonight.

And no doubt once Big Ben chimes and the fireworks go off there’ll be a fair bit of singing of Auld Lang Syne to get the new year underway.

The song’s become a New Year staple, of course, but just what are the words, who wrote it – and why do we sing it at New Year?

Here’s what you need to know…

What are the lyrics to Auld Lang Syne?

While the New Year is generally greeted with much singing of Auld Lang Syne, a lot of us struggle to remember the words from one year to the next.

There are five verses in total although it’s normally only the first verse and chorus which are sung.

As a helpful guide, the actual lyrics are as follows:


Auld Lang Syne – the lyrics

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

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.

Auld Lang Syne meaning

The song is actually part of a much longer work by Scottish poet Robert Burns – although even he admitted it was based on an old folk song – and Auld Lang Syne means ‘old long since’ or ‘old times’ – hence the phrase ‘for auld lang syne’ means ‘for old time’s sake’.

Why do we sing Auld Lang Syne on New Year’s Eve?

Auld Lang Syne is an appropriate song for New Year given that it reflects on old times, which a lot of people do at New Year – as they also begin to look ahead to times to come.


But while it’s always been popular in Scotland – with Scottish immigrants taking the song across the pond when they emigrated to the US in the 19th Century – it became more of an international favourite back in 1929 when Canadian bandleader Guy Lombardo and his band performed at New York’s Roosevelt Hotel on New Year’s Eve.

The performance was being broadcast on radio across the US – and listeners took it to their hearts, with Lombardo’s New Year concerts, and the playing of Auld Lang Syne, quickly becoming a US tradition.

As well as being popular at New Year, the song is also sung at funerals, graduations and by the Scouts to end jamborees.

MORE: New Year’s Eve TV schedule: What’s on TV tonight?


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