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The meaning and origin of the expression: Auld lang syne

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Auld Lang Syne

Meaning

The Anglicized version of 'auld lang syne', which means old long-since or old long-ago.

Origin

auld lang syneThe phrase has been a commonplace in Scots for centuries and isn't far removed from the English 'once upon a time'. Of course, the best-known use of the phrase is Robert Burns' poem Auld lang syne, the words of which are sung in English-speaking countries around the world each New Year's Eve, to a tune that Burns said he transcribed from an old man's singing of it.

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

Chorus:
For auld lang syne, my dear,
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 tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

We twa hae run about the braes,
and pou’d the gowans fine;
But we’ve wander’d mony a weary fit,
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 gies a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll tak a right gude-willie-waught,
for auld lang syne.

Burns' version builds on earlier works. Poems and songs with somewhat similar text have been found dating back as far as anonymous ballad in the Bannatyne Manuscript of 1568. Another version, the first that contains a form of the 'auld lang syne' phrase, is attributed to the courtly poet Sir Robert Ayton (1570-1638).

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never thought upon,
The flames of love extinguished,
And freely past and gone?
Is thy kind heart now grown so cold
In that loving breast of thine,
That thou canst never once reflect
On old-long-syne