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What does “Auld Lang Syne” mean?

The Answer

Old long since (or roughly “for old times’ sake”)

You may be aware that the song Auld Lang Syne was written by Robert Burns. However, its history dates back even further.

When Burns turned in the manuscript of “Auld Lang Sine” in 1788, he was quick to cite the Scottish oral tradition as his muse. “The following song, an old song, of the olden times,” he’s said to have remarked, “has never been in print, nor even in manuscript until I took it down from an old man.”

What Does “Auld Lang Syne” Really Mean? | Reader's Digest

While Burns added some verses, “auld lang syne” appeared in Scottish song as far back as 1588.

The literal translation is “Old gone since”, but that means roughly “times gone by” or “for old times’ sake“.

The chorus in the original language is as follows:

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

In modern English this roughly translates to:

For days long gone by, my dearest,
for days long gone by,
we’ll drink a cup of kindness yet,
for days long gone by.

For the full translation have a look at this page on the aptly named Lyrics Translate.

Why do we sing this song in particular on New Year’s Eve?

Guy Lombardo and his band played the song to lead off the New Year’s Eve concert in New York City in 1929, which was broadcast live on radio. It really caught on and the tradition was born. Lombardo reportedly learned the song from Scottish immigrants when growing up in Ontario, Canada.

Auld Lang Syne Supercut

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