Cheers – Word of the Week
Traditional meaning: used for expressing good wishes when holding a glass of alcohol, just before you drink it
This expression exists in nearly every language. For example, it is kanpai in Japanese, na zdravje in Slovenian or oogy wawa in Zulu. This is the basic meaning of the word, which, if you've been out to an English-speaking bar, you've probably heard before.
I am not native to the UK, and moved here almost a year ago. When I came to London I was a bit surprised how people used the word “cheers” in everyday life, for a lot of different meanings.
If you are in England you will definitely come across different meanings from the first day of your stay. I was awestruck how frequently "cheers" is used, and not just for drinking alcohol!
I think an entry in urban dictionary catches the essence nicely:
“A word used by Britons on any occasion, covering any meaning from 'thanks', 'hello', 'no problem', to 'an alien just played poker with your chinchilla in the left corner of my blue garden shed'. Usually followed by the term 'mate', which is also 100% devoid of semantic content and meaning. This phenomenon is taken by some continental scholars as strong evidence that all Britons are telepathic.”
In many places, cheers is actually a very informal word, and its meaning even differs country by country.
South Africa: goodbye; (traditional meaning)
Australia, New Zealand and in the UK: the meaning varies heavily, but usually thank you.
USA: traditional meaning only
Of course, there is also the verb “to cheer”, but that’s another blog post!
If you are planning to learn in London, Auckland, Sydney or in any other Kaplan schools in these 3 countries, definitely prepare to hear the word ’cheers’ a lot, and also try to use it as – in my experience – natives like to hear it.
Cheers for reading!