There are lots of ways to say “cheers!” in French. The most common expression is simply to say “santé!”, which means “health!”. Another commonly used but slightly outdated expression is “tchin tchin!”. What is the best way to say cheers in French? It depends on where you are and what situation you’re in. Let’s lift out glasses and find out!
Expressions for cheers in French
1. À votre santé
À votre santé is one of the most polite ways to say cheers in French. It means to your health and actually comes from the middle ages.
à votre santé
Back then, people thought that alcohol was good for your health. They would drink in excess and thought that by throwing up they were purifying their bodies.
Now we know that alcohol in excess isn’t good for you. But still today, the French use à votre santé to wish someone good health while drinking on formal occasions.
2. À ta santé
Similar to à votre santé, à ta santé also means “to your health.” And it comes from the same tradition from the middle ages.
à ta santé
The difference between the two is that à ta santé is the informal way to say cheers. Since it uses the tu form, it’s best to use among people you know well.
Luckily, both à votre santé et à ta santé shorten simply to the French word, santé. Santé is really one of the best ways to say cheers. It is the most common and most versatile.
This is because santé is the shortened version of both the informal or formal version of cheers, so you can use it in really any circumstance. So, you’ll definitely hear this one among French friends.
3. À la tienne
À la tienne is another really easy way to say cheers in French. It literally translates to “to yours,” but it is a shortened version of à ta santé so it really means “to your health.”
à la tienne
You’ll likely only say this when it’s between you and one other person rather than an entire group since it’s in the you singular form. You should also only use this one in informal situations.
4. À la vôtre
If you guessed that à la vôtre is the formal version of à la tienne, you got it. À la vôtre is one of the many different ways to say cheers in French. Just like à la tienne, this means “to yours” and is a shortened version of à votre santé.
à la vôtre
5. À la nôtre
Remember how I said that à la tienne and à la vôtre are really only used between two people? Well, à la nôtre means “to ours” and is a great way to say cheers with a group of friends.
Similarly to all of the phrases we just went over, à la nôtre is a shortened version of “to our health.”
à la nôtre
6. Tchin Tchin/Chin chin/Cin cin
As you can see French people have many different ways of spelling tchin tchin. The most common way is tchin tchin. But you can spell it in other ways as well.
Like I mentioned earlier, tchin tchin is a slightly outdated way to say cheers in French. And you usually shorten it to just tchin.
Tchin tchin actually arrived in France in the beginning of the 20th century by soldiers coming back from the Second Opium War. It likely comes from the Chinese phrase “qing qing,” which means “please, please” in Mandarin.
The Chinese often used the phrase to invite someone to drink. This is why the French soldiers probably assumed it was a form of “cheers.” But it’s always interesting to see how different languages can influence French.
7. Yec’hed mat
Yec’hed mat is a more rare form of cheers in French. This is because you’ll likely only use it in the French region of Bretagne or Brittany.
In the regional language of Brittany, Yec’hed means “health” and mat means “good.” So, when you clink glasses with a Breton and say “Yec’hed mat,” you’re also wishing them good health.
Drinking Customs in France
You now know the many ways to say cheers in French in a bunch of different circumstances.
But the learning is not over yet. There are a few drinking customs in France that are important to know before you go try to do a French toast or clink your drinking glass with someone.
The One Mistake You Don’t Want to Make: Not Making Eye Contact When Saying Cheers
When it comes to a mistake you don’t want to make when saying cheers in France, you must make eye contact with the person you’re clinking your glass with. I know it’s common in the US to do a group cheers where you don’t look at anyone in particular.
Or to look at the glass you’re clinking with rather than the person. But, in French it is not only considered rude to not look someone in the eye when saying cheers, but it’s also unlucky.
Yep, you heard that right! If you don’t make eye contact with someone during the clinking of glasses, you’ll get years of bad luck. (Or so they say.)
Some people even say that avoiding eye contact will get you up to seven years of bad luck!
Un Toast Lors d’Un Mariage (Wedding Toast)
Just like in most English-speaking countries, in France there is a toast for the couple at a wedding. This can either be called un toast porté aux mariés (a toast raised for the married couple) or un toast lors d’un mariage (wedding toast).
Normally the maid of honor, the best man, and the married couple themselves will raise a glass to the group of people at their wedding. They’ll normally share a few words about the couple as well as thank people for coming.
After the toast, you might hear the person doing the toast say:
- Levons nos verres aux mariés – Let’s raise our glasses to the married couple.
- Je lève mon verre – I raise my glass.
- Levons nos verres – Let’s raise our glasses.
Other things you can toast to outside of a wedding might be on New Year’s Eve where you can toast to a bonne année et bonne santé (a good year and good health). Or when you buy a new house where you might toast à votre nouvelle maison (to your new house).
Another French tradition you might occasionally come across is the cul sec. Literally meaning, dry a**, French speakers use the phrase when they’re talking about drinking from their glass until it’s empty.
And that’s it! Now go ahead and enjoy a nice glass of your drink of choice—in moderation of course.