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CHEERS In Italian – How We Say It, When To Say It, + Toasting Rules

Cheers in Italian – How we say ‘cheers’ in Italy, when we say it, and Italian toasting rules

Let’s celebrate! In English we ‘toast’ or ‘raise our glasses’ (and later clink them gently together). This custom may come from the rite of drinking to the gods and to the dead in ancient Rome and Greece at banquets. Today we prefer to drink to the health of the living.

In Italian the verb ‘to toast’ is brindare or fare un brindisi.  It’s a verb that has made its way through German to Spanish and then into Italian.

Different areas of Italy have been dominated by different populations. German soldiers known as Lanzechenecchi or Landsknecht were mercenary troops who were the bulk of the Holy Roman Empire’s Army from the 15th – 17th centuries. Their toast was bring dir’s (literally, I bring/give to you).

During the same period, many parts of Italy were under Spanish (Aragonese) control, including the Duchy of Milan. Spanish troops took up the toast of their German counterparts and transformed the verb into brindis. So, from bring dir’s to brindis to the modern-day Italian brindisi!

So that’s the story of the verb ‘to toast’, but what do we actually say when we clink the glasses in Italy (our version of cheers)?

How To Say Cheers In Italian

Cin Cin!

Prounouced cheen cheen (not chin chin).

Listen to it here:

You’ll hear cin cin at toasts throughout Italy.  This is probably our most popular toast as it’s onomatopoeic. It’s the clinking sound that the glasses make as they touch. It comes from Chinese ch’ing ch’ing. Chinese sailors in the port of Guangzhou would say it as a friendly greeting (“go ahead, be my guest, welcome…”) and it was exported to European ports.

Good To Know:  In many etiquette guides you’ll read that this is to be avoided (and replaced with the more elegant salute), as is clinking glasses (it’s not a very elegant gesture). As probably 90% of the country does and says it, I wouldn’t worry too much (unless you’re planning to be in the company of Italian nobility any time soon!)

Salute!

Prounouced sah-LOO-tay.

Listen to it here:

Salute is another really common way to ‘cheers’ in Italy.  It literally means ‘health’ as in ‘here’s to good health.’  This way to ‘cheers’ is used in many different languages, including French (santé), Spanish (salud) and Portuguese (saúde).

Alla nostra!

Prounouced ahl-lah NOS-trah.

Listen to it here:

Literally ‘to our…’  It’s a short way of toasting to whatever you want. It could be to our health, happiness, success, etc.  It’s just a general ‘Here’s to us!’

You can also say the complete phrase, like alla nostra salute (to our health)!

 

Alla tua/vostra!

Prounouced ahl-lah VOS-trah / ahl-lah TOO-ah.

Listen to it here:

Like alla nostra, it translates to ‘to your…’ health, happiness, success, etc.  Or simply, ‘Here’s to you!’ 

Use vostra when you’re toasting to more than one person and tua for just one person.

Alla faccia di chi ci vuole male!

Listen to it here:

This one’s not very polite, but it’s funny all the same.  The literal translation is ‘And in the face of those who wish us ill.’  

Cheers in Italian – Regional Variations

Two beer glasses on a picnic table in South Tyrol in Italy.  You can see red lounge chairs and sun umbrellas in the background and the mountains in the distance.

Some cities or regions have a different way to cheers or they embellish the toast a little:

  • In Naples, you’ll hear “Aiz aiz, acal acal acal, accost accost, a salute nostra!”  This is a chant to get you geared up to the toast to good health. It’s in Neapolitan dialect and (accompanied by the movements) means ‘glasses up, glasses down, glasses together and here’s to our health!’
  • In Sicily, you’ll hear saluti!
  • In South Tyrol’s Ladin valleys, you’ll hear vives!
  • In Sardegna, you’ll hear chent’annos e prusu, which means ‘100 years and more, always in good health!’

Good To Know: There are regions in Italy that border with other countries where the Italian language is the speaker’s second language. For example, in parts of the Valle d’Aosta very close to the French border you might even hear the French santé. In South Tyrol, the majority language is German, so you may well hear prost, the German ‘cheers.’

When Do Italians Say Cheers?

You’ll hear an Italian version of cheers at most Italian cultural celebrations, including:

  • Dinner toast
  • Aperitif/aperitivo time
  • Weddings
  • Birthdays
  • Big celebrations
  • Graduations
  • Engagements
  • Promotions

Occasions When Cheers Isn’t Necessarily Used

While Italians will ‘cheers’ on many occasions, you won’t necessarily hear it at every celebration.  Other words or phrases are sometimes used for:

  • New Year’s Eve – You can say Buon Anno (Happy New Year) or simply Auguri (best wishes…this one kind of works for every occasion!)
  • CarnevaleAuguri (best wishes)
  • Festa della DonnaAuguri (best wishes)
  • ChristmasBuon Natale (Merry/Happy Christmas)
  • WeddingsViva gli sposi (Long live the bride and groom) or Congratulazioni (Congratulations)
  • BirthdaysBuon Compleanno (the classic Happy Birthday) or Auguri/Auguroni (Best wishes). “Tanti Auguri a Te” is the Italian version of the Happy Birthday Song.
  • During non-Italian holidays like Valentine’s Day or Thanksgiving you’ll often hear “Buona Festa del… and the name of the holiday.”

Rules For Toasting In Italy – Should You Clink Glasses?

Clinking glasses can be ‘controversial.’ Some say it’s not proper etiquette, while others are too lazy to clink glasses with the entire table (which you must do if anyone clinks during the cheers). We’ll leave this one out of the ‘official’ rules.

Fun Fact:  There are lots of legends about why people clink glasses. One theory is that a vigorous clink would mean that a little of your drink splashed into the other person’s glass (and vice versa) so it was sure right away that no one was poisoning anyone else!

Another possible explanation for clinking glasses is that you’re satisfying all five senses:

  1. You can taste alcohol with your tongue
  2. You can see it with your eyes
  3. You can smell it with your nose
  4. You can feel it as it enters the bloodstream (and goes to your head)
  5. Only hearing is missing, and by making the clinking sound the five senses are complete!

There’s even a theory that the clinking sound was made to scare away any lurking evil spirits!

Italian Toasting Rules

GIF of Italian Toasting Rules.
  • Look the other person in the eye! It didn’t begin as an Italian tradition, but we’ve adopted it. Make sure you look the person you’re toasting in the eye, otherwise it’s seven years of bad luck (and no one wants that!).
  • Never toast with an empty glass. That’s bad luck too. Make sure there’s something in your glass.
  • Don’t cross another person’s arm to toast. If you’re toasting guests across the table, make sure you’re not crossing anyone else’s arms. It’s uncertain where this comes from, but like crossed silverware, it can denote conflict. It also gets in the way of someone else’s toast and may cause spilled drinks, so even more reason to avoid it!
  • It’s said to be bad luck to toast with water, so if you’re not drinking, you can just raise your wine or cocktail glass without clinking. Water, as we say in Italy, rusts.
  • Also, getting people’s attention by clinking a glass with silverware is a big no-no. It’s just not very polite. Once everyone has been served something the host will stand up and make their toast (and people will naturally fall silent to hear what they have to say.
  • If it’s a formal setting or occasion the first toast should be made by the padrone della casa (the host), usually during the aperitivo.  It shouldn’t be a big speech. Just a few words.

You may also want to read
How to Make Aperol Spritz – An Italian’s Guide
Hugo Cocktail Recipe – Straight From South Tyrol
Italian Digestif – Your Guide to Italy’s After Dinner Drinks
Aperitivo – All You Need to Know About Italian Aperitif

I’ll leave you with a classic Italian song from the ‘60s – Cin Cin by Richard Anthony.  Take a listen and see if you can understand the lyrics (typed below the video for reference):

YouTube video

FAQ

What is the Italian toast for 100 years?
There are two versions: one toast (or wish) is actually cento di questi giorni, meaning ‘100 days like this’ and, of course if it’s a birthday you could wish that the birthday boy or girl lives another 100 years.

What does the Italian word ‘chin’ mean?
You’re probably thinking of cin cin, which is pronounced ‘cheen cheen.’ It’s an Italian way to say ‘cheers’ while making a toast.