Auld Lang Syne Meaning & Lyrics – The History Behind a New Year’s Tradition

(Last Updated On: December 29, 2017)

auld lang syne

Auld Lang Syne meaning and why do we sing it on New Year’s Eve?

The Scottish poem, written by Robert Burns in the 1700s, translates to “old long since” and means “times gone by” and at the end of each year we find ourselves singing the song while drinking champagne and finding someone to kiss. As the ball drops from Times Square in New York City you will now doubt start out strong with ‘Should auld acquaintance be forgot’ and then just end up mumbling for the next solid minute.

Here’s the thing, “Auld Lang Syne,” wasn’t really supposed to be associated with New Years. Bandleader Guy Lombardo is credited with popularizing the song and making it a New Year’s tradition. Lombardo heard the song as a youth in his hometown of London, Ontario and over the years it became a signature of he and his brothers’ famous band – Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians (rumor has it they loved songs in the key of Eh).

They played the song at midnight on New Year’s at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City in 1929 and every year since where they held the slot at the “Roosevelt Grill” from 1929-1959. They went on to perform the tune at the Waldorf Astoria on New Year’s Eve from 1966-1976. Auld Lang Syne became an American tradition but is generally known as one of the most popular songs where nobody knows the lyrics or anything about the Auld Lang Syne meaning.

But again about that Auld Lang Syne meaning?

In a nutshell, “Auld Lang Syne,” is basically about remembering friends from the past. That’s it really, the rest is a nice rhyming scheme with a lot of fun Scottish words thrown in for good measure (see what I did there). But the crux of the song and why it work so well for the end of the year is that when good people come and go in your life, it is worth it to take a moment of time, raise a glass and remember those that should never be forgotten.

Now you know the Auld Lang Syne meaning. If you want a more nitty gritty breakdown of the lyrics we have a side by side comparison of the traditional lyrics compared to a more modern day translation. Oh and don’t forget to earn the Auld Lang Syne badge on Sporcle come New Year’s Eve.

Traditional Song

Modern English Translation

Auld Lang Syne

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And days o’ lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my dear
For auld lang syne,
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’t 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 guid willie-waught
For auld lang syne.

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

Times Gone By

Should old acquaintances be forgotten,
And never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintances be forgotten,
And days of long ago.

For times gone by, my dear
For times gone by,
We will take a cup of kindness yet
For times gone by.

We two have run about the hillsides
And pulled the daisies fine,
But we have wandered many a weary foot
For times gone by.

We two have paddled in the stream
From noon till dine,
But seas between us broad have roared
Since times gone by.

And there is a hand, my trusty friend,
And give us a hand of thine,
And we will take a goodwill drink (of ale)
For times gone by.

And surely you will pay for your pint,
And surely I will pay for mine.
And we will take a cup of kindness yet
For times gone by!




Derek Pharr
About Derek Pharr 76 Articles
Derek Pharr is Vice President of Products at Sporcle and an occasional writer of random topics and bad jokes. He also has an odd addiction to Taylor Swift songs and hates white foods.

1 Comment

  1. In Scotland we don;’t just sing it at Hogmany, but at weddings, parties, ceilidhs etc. In short, anywhere that people get together at the end of the evening. It’s great fun and you have to watch out that you don;t fall as the dance gets faster and faster towards the end.

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