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Meaning of "Cheers" | British slang

2 min read
20 January 2021
Students doing cheers


Traditional meaning:

Used for expressing good wishes when holding a glass of alcohol, just before you drink it

Pronunciation: /tʃɪə(r)z/

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.


Other surprising uses in British slang:

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)
  • AustraliaNew Zealand and in the UK: the meaning varies heavily, but usually thank you.
  • USA: traditional meaning only


Cheers for reading!


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