Auld Lang Syne: Five things to know

The Queen holding hands

Did you sing it?

It's the traditional song to welcome in the New Year.

But where did it come from and what does it mean?

How many of us manage this line?

"And we'll tak a right gude-willie-waught."

Here are five things to know.

Robert Burns - aka Rabbie - wrote it, kind of

Robert Burns

Robert Burns wrote the version we sing today but it was based on earlier Scottish folk songs.

He penned the lyrics most of us mumble our way through in 1788.

The tune we sing along to though only became fully established after his death.

So what was he basing it on?

The roots of the words go way back to the 16th century and an old man's lament about how his friends have abandoned him.

By the late 17th century various versions of Auld Lang Syne were already popular.

The specific chorus we still sing was knocking around by 1701.

What does Auld Lang Syne mean?

Hmmm. Depends who you talk to.

It's from the Scots language - which is based on dialects which started to split off from other forms of English in medieval times.

If you try and translate it in to modern standard English it becomes something like "old long since", or "long long ago", or "days gone by" or just "old times".

So "for auld lang syne" might be converted in to "for (the sake of) old times."

An old New Year card

What's it really all about then?

Well it may have started as a lament about losing touch but nowadays many experts say it's a song of reunion, not of parting.

It recalls happy days gone by, separation and coming back together.

The guid willie-waught bit is about rekindling the past with a handshake and a goodwill drink.

Entertainer Andy Stewart always knew when to "gie a hand"
Image caption "gie a hand"

Go on then, I'll learn it all for next year

Here are the full lyrics then - get practising now, ready for 2017.


Should auld acquaintance be forgot,

And never brought to mind?

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,

And auld lang syne!

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 take a cup o' kindness yet,

For auld lang syne.

We twa hae run about the braes,

And pou'd the gowan fine;

But we've wander'd mony a weary fitt,

Sin' auld lang syne.

We twa hae paidl'd in the burn,

Frae morning 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 gude-willie-waught,

For auld lang syne.

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