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But What Does Auld Lang Syne Mean?

December 30, 2020

New Year’s Eve, you’ll most likely hear “Auld Lang Syne.” You might even attempt to sing along, but do you know what it means? I didn’t. So, what does Auld Lang Syne mean?

Scottish poet Robert Burns introduced the song to the Scottish Musical Museum Academy, describing it as an ancient song. However, it’s believed he added the later verses.

The song was set to a traditional Scottish tune and probably performed more up-tempo than today’s version. Surprisingly, it wasn’t originally a holiday song. The song was played and sung at funerals and other ceremonies such as graduations. The Scottish tradition is to form a circle, hold hands, and sing.

How Did this 18th Century Scottish Song Become a New Year’s Eve Tradition? 

Despite its strong association with New Year’s Eve, the song was never intended to be a holiday song. “Credit Guy Lombardo for popularizing the song when his band used it as a segue between two radio programs during a live performance at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York in 1929. By coincidence, they played the song just after the clock hit midnight, and a New Year’s tradition was born.” — ABC News

But What Does Auld Lang Syne Mean?

What’s the answer to the question what does the song mean? It isn’t very clear. It has been translated as “times gone by,” “long time gone,” and “old long gone,” but that’s only the title. What do the verses and chorus mean? It might be that Sally in “When Harry Met Sally” said it best, “Harry: (asking about Auld Lang Syne) What does this song mean? My whole life, I don’t know what this song means. I mean, ‘Should old acquaintance be forgot’? Does that mean that we should forget old acquaintances, or does it mean we should remember them if we happened to forget them, which is not possible because we already forgot? It’s confusing.

Sally: Well, maybe it just means that we should remember that we forgot them or something. Anyway, it’s about old friends.” — Movie Quotes 

It’s About Old Friends

That’s my take-away, it’s about old friends. I like that. I believe I’ll print the lyrics and sing it with gusto on New Year’s Eve. Maybe I can get a few friends to join hands virtually, form a Zoom circle, and sing it with me.

Auld Lang Syne

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!

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!

We’ll take a right good-will draught,

for auld lang syne.


Bar Keepers Friend Wishes All of You a Happy New Year! 

SO, what does the song mean? It symbolizes remembering old friends, and it reminds us of past good times. It expresses Happy New Year! So, this year more than ever, from all of us at Bar Keepers Friend, we wish all our friends a happy 2021!

About the Author

Randy Clark - Headshot

Randy Clark is a speaker, coach, and author. He publishes a weekly blog at Randy Clark Randy is passionate about social media, leadership development, and flower gardening. He’s a beer geek and on weekends (after COVID-19) he can be found fronting the Rock & Roll band Under the Radar. He’s the proud father of two educators; he has four amazing grandchildren and a wife who dedicates her time to helping others. Randy is the author of the Amazon bestseller The New Manager’s Workbook: A crash course in effective management.

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