- skip - Brewer’s

Drinking Healths

was a Roman custom. Thus, in Plautus, we read of a man drinking to his mistress with these words: “Bene vos, bene nos, bene te, bene me, bene nostrum etiam Stephaʹnium” (Here’s to you, here’s to us all, here’s to thee, here’s to me, here’s to our dear— —). (Stich. v. 4.) Persius (v. 1, 20) has a similar verse “Bene mihi; bene vobis, bene amiʹcæ nostræ” (Here’s to myself, here’s to you, and here’s to I shanʹt say who). Martial, Ovid, Horace, etc., refer to the same custom.

The ancient Greeks drank healths. Thus, when Theramĕnēs was condemned by the Thirty Tyrants to drink hemlock, he said “Hoc pulcro Critiæ”—the man who condemned him to death.

The ancient Saxons followed the same habit, and Geoffrey of Monmouth says that Hengist invited King Vortigern to a banquet to see his new levies. After the meats were removed, Roweʹna, the beautiful daughter of Hengist, entered with a golden cup full of wine, and, making obeisance, said, “Lauerd kining, wacht heil” (Lord King, your health). The king then drank and replied, “Drine heil” (Here’s to you). (Geoffrey of Monmouth, book vi. 12.) Robert de Brunne refers to this custom:        

“This is ther custom and hev gest

When they are at the ale or fest;

Ilk man that levis gware him drink

Salle say ‘Wosseīllëʹ to him drink.

He that biddis sall say ‘Wassaile,ʹ

The tother salle say again ‘Drinkaille.ʹ

That says ‘Woisseilleʹ drinks of the cup,

Kiss and his felaw he gives it up.”


Robert de Brunne.

⁂ In drinking healths we hold our hands up towards the person toasted and say, “Your health . .” The Greeks handed the cup to the person toasted and said, “This to thee,” “Græci in epŭlis pocŭlum alicui traditūri, eum nominare solent.” Our holding out the wine-glass is a relic of this Greek custom.

previous entry · index · next entry


Entry taken from Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, edited by the Rev. E. Cobham Brewer, LL.D. and revised in 1895.

previous entry · index · next entry

Dream Authorship
Dress your Jacket (or hide)
Drink Deep
Drinke and Welcome
Drink like a Fish (To)
Drinking Healths
Drinking Song
Drinking at Freeman’s Quay
Drive at (To)
Drive Off
Drivelling Dotage
Driver of Europe (Le Cocher de lEurope)
Drives fat Oxen (Who)