What does Auld Lang Syne mean?

The words of Auld Lang Syne are of uncertain origin. They were published in a posthumous book anthology of poetry Scottish (1796). They are usually attributed to Robert Burns, but he did not claim authorship when he submitted them to Scots Musical Museum in 1788.

"The following song, an old song, of the olden times, and which has never been in print, nor even in manuscript until I took it down from an old man."[8]

This 'old man' has never been identified, nor did he ever earn a penny from one of the most sung lyrics of all time.


Auld Lang Syne is the written in Scots language  The literal translation of the title is Old long since. In English this works better as ‘for old times sake' - the theme is old friends discussing past adventures over several drinks.

Illustration to Robert Burns' poem Auld Lang Syne by J.M. Wright and Edward Scriven.

The world's best known New Year's Eve song is not specifically about Hogmanay. There are no specific references to a particular day, though clearly its mood suits the occasion.

The Words

The first verse and chorus are sung across the world:

Should auld acquaintance be forgot
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot
And days of auld lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my dear
For auld lang syne
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet
For days of auld lang syne

On New Year’s Eve 2020 linking arms with strangers will not be possible in Scotland, alas.