Musicians playing in a street parade in GermanyMusicians playing in a street parade in GermanyMusicians playing in a street parade in GermanyMusicians playing in a street parade in Germany

Prost! Santé! Kanpai! 8 Ways to Say “Cheers” this Oktoberfest

Oktoberfest, one of the world’s largest beer festivals, will soon open its doors, welcoming visitors from far and wide. Oktoberfest-goers bond over good German beer, delicious German food and the shared desire to have fun. Amongst the oompah bands and typical chants, the beer tents are filled with echoes of “Prost!,” the German word for “cheers.”

Regardless of whether you get the chance to travel to Oktoberfest this year, we think it’s important for everyone to know how to say “cheers” in several languages. It’s a great conversation starter when traveling, and if done correctly, it’s definitely something that will impress the locals. So here’s a little insight into the origins of saying cheers, toasting etiquettes in different countries and how to say “cheers” in eight different languages.

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Say cheers

Why do we cheers?

Cheers’ing to good health before drinking an alcoholic drink continues to be customary all around the world. But why do we actually clink glasses? Although it has proven a little difficult to unearth the exact reason where the practice of saying cheers comes from, there are a few widely held theories.

In Medieval times, it was believed that clinking glasses would prevent you from being poisoned. If you filled your drinks right to the top, and then clinked hard, the alcohol would most likely spill into the other person’s glass. This way, you could be sure no one had slipped something into your drink while you weren’t looking. Saying cheers was also a way of warding off evil spirits. The sounds of the glasses clinking and the loud cheering would scare demons and spirits away.

Cheers in German

As we’ve already mentioned if you want to say cheers in German you use the word “prost,” one of many must-know phrases for the beer halls of Oktoberfest. Beware that Germans insist on making eye contact when saying cheers. Failing to do this will result in several years of bad luck!

Cheers in Spanish, Portuguese and French

Saying cheers in one of the Romance languages can be a little confusing. In Spanish speaking countries they say “salud,” in Portuguese it’s “saúde” and the French say “santé.” In each of the languages, the word translates to “(good) health,” much like the English expression.

Cheers in Russian

Toasting plays a big role in Russian culture. If you want to propose a toast in Russian, you use the phrase “На здоровье!” If you’re pouring the drinks for everyone around the table, make sure to pour yours last.

Cheers in Chinese

In Chinese, you say “gān bēi” (干杯) when clinking glasses. Similar to “bottoms up” in English, it literally translates as “dry the glass,” so it’s possible you’ll have to finish the drink quickly.

Cheers in Japanese

The most common way to cheers in Japanese is to say “kanpai(乾杯). It’s mandatory etiquette to toast before taking the first sip and if you’re in the company of your seniors or your boss, you need to wait for them to make the toast first. It’s an important sign of respect.

Cheers in English

The English word “cheers” originates from "chiere," an old French word meaning “face” or “head.” In the 18th century, it was recorded as a shout of support or encouragement. Today, “cheers” is an expression of good health before drinking.

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