The Hamilton Spectator

The meaning behind “sláinte”


When hoisting a pint with loved ones this St. Patrick’s Day, revelers will no doubt hear the word “sláinte” at some point. This may be a familiar toast on St. Patrick’s Day, but it is one that many revelers likely don’t understand. St. Patrick’s Day is rife with tradition, and many celebrants cannot imagine celebratin­g on March 17 without a pint of beer. If that pint is the signature stout made by the Dublin-based Guinness brewery, then all the better. Saying “sláinte” before taking a sip of beer is a St. Patrick’s Day tradition that utilizes an Irish expression. According to IrishCentr­al. com, the word “sláinte” is derived from the Old Irish word “slán,” which means “healthy” or “safe.” So St. Patrick’s Day revelers who say “sláinte” when gathered at the pub with loved ones are toasting the health and safety of their friends and families. While “sláinte” is used in various contexts, in North America it’s most often employed as a toast before drinking. However, IrishCentr­ notes that sláinte is part of other expression­s as well. For example, the phrase “Is fearr an tsláinte ná na táinte” translates to “health is better than wealth” in English. And once the pints have been finished and it’s time to call it a night, those same people who toasted “sláinte” may want to say “Go dte tú slán,” which translates to “May you go safely” in English. When used in this context, the word “slán,” which has various meanings, is a way to say “farewell.”

This St. Patrick’s Day, celebrants who are out with friends or simply enjoying a pint at home with family can add a little extra joy to the holiday by offering the familiar and well-meaning “sláinte” toast before taking their first sips. (MC)

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