Drinking song

A drinking song is a song sung while drinking alcohol. Most drinking songs are folk songs, and may be varied from person to person and region to region, in both the lyrics and in the music. Some groups that have a tradition of singing drinking songs include rugby players, Hash House Harriers, air force fighter pilots, and fraternities.

The Star-Spangled Banner's tune was adapted from an old English drinking song by John Stafford Smith called "To Anacreon in Heaven". The spiritual "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" is used as a drinking song by members of the Hash House Harriers and rugby union players, with obscene gestures associated with the lyrics. This song is heightened to a drinking game by air force fighter pilots. The first person to fail to correctly make the gestures has to buy the next round of drinks.

Popular Canadian drinking songs include Stan Rogers' "Barrett's Privateers", Great Big Sea's "The Night Pat Murphy Died" and The Rankin Family's "The Mull River Shuffle". There are several French-Canadian drinking songs (Prends un verre de bière, mon minou, Chevaliers de la table ronde), some of which have even been recorded as singles by folk singers but the most well known is just chanting "Igloo! Igloo! Igloo!" (from "glou-glou", the sound someone makes while drinking) as someone chugs a beer or two just as "Drink! Drink! Drink! is chanted in English-speaking cultures.

A German song interpreted by an Italian Brass combo.

In Germany, drinking songs are called Trinklieder. In Sweden, where they are called Dryckesvisor, traditions are upheld to an unusual degree in modern European context. There are drinking songs associated with Christmas, Midsummer, and other celebrations sometimes unique to Sweden. One commonly sung is "Helan går". Although singing songs from Fredmans Epistlar is less usual, Carl Michael Bellman's influence on the Swedish customary preoccupation with the drinking song is considerable. Drinking songs are an integral part of Finnish student culture, in no small part because of Swedish influence on sitsit. Local songs can be either in Finnish or in Swedish, and either played straight or self-subverting, by e.g. lapsing into Finnish in a Swedish song, or having a song consist entirely of the word Now! followed by drinking. In Spain, Asturias, patria querida (the anthem of Asturias) is usually depicted as a drinking song.



The first record of a drinking song dates to the 11th century, and derives from the Carmina Burana[1], a 13th century historical collection of poems, educational songs, love sonnets and "entertainment" or drinking songs. It is accepted lore that drinking songs likely date back at least a thousand years earlier, but there is no established record.

Nearly every country enjoys its own extensive collection of drinking songs well known to its natives; most recognized are the English, German[2] and Russian[3] standards. There are dozens of subgenres of the drinking song, including regional, topical, religious, sexual and war. Notable subvariations include war songs (e.g. the American "Star Spangled Banner", a poem Francis Scott Key, inspired by the battle of Fort McHenry, set to the tune of "To Anacreon in Heaven") celebrating a particular battle or honoring a fallen troop or soldier, "hailing" songs, lauding a companion, and sexual or scatological songs typically denoting a romantic liaison or sexual act.[4]

Other notable drinking songs

See also


  1. ^ Carmina Burana. Die Lieder der Benediktbeurer Handschrift. Zweisprachige Ausgabe, ed. and translated by Carl Fischer and Hugo Kuhn, dtv, Munich 1991
  2. ^ http://www.cs.ubc.ca/~davet/music/disc/GERMNDRK_GDS.html
  3. ^ http://russmus.net
  4. ^ http://www.csufresno.edu/folklore/drinkingsongs/html/books-and-manuscripts/1700-1799/1768-the-gentleman-s-bottle-companion/index.htm

External links


  • Cray, Ed. The Erotic Muse: American Bawdy Songs (University of Illinois, 1992).
  • Legman, Gershon. The Horn Book. (New York: University Press, 1964).
  • Reuss, Richard A. An Annotated Field Collection of Songs From the American College Student Oral Tradition (Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Masters Thesis, 1965).

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • drinking song — n. a song celebrating the pleasures of drinking alcoholic liquors; song for a drinking party …   English World dictionary

  • drinking song — a song of hearty character suitable for singing by a group engaged in convivial drinking. [1590 1600] * * * ▪ music  song on a convivial theme composed usually for singing in accompaniment to drinking. The form became a standard element in… …   Universalium

  • drinking song — song that is popular among drunkards …   English contemporary dictionary

  • drinking song — noun a song celebrating the joys of drinking; sung at drinking parties • Hypernyms: ↑song, ↑vocal …   Useful english dictionary

  • drinking song — drink′ing song n. mad a song of hearty character suitable for singing by a group engaged in convivial drinking • Etymology: 1590–1600 …   From formal English to slang

  • drinking song — /ˈdrɪŋkɪŋ sɒŋ/ (say dringking song) noun a hearty song, often in praise of liquor, suitable to be sung by a group engaged in friendly drinking …   Australian English dictionary

  • drinking song — noun Date: 1597 a song on a convivial theme appropriate for a group engaged in social drinking …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • drinking song — noun a song which celebrates or accompanies drinking …   Wiktionary

  • drinking song — noun a hearty or bawdy song sung by a group while drinking alcohol …   English new terms dictionary

  • Irish drinking song — can refer to: * A genre of traditional Irish songs (for example, Seven Drunken Nights). * The title of a song by the ska band Buck O Nine from the album Songs In The Key Of Bree , commonly misattributed to Flogging Molly or the Dropkick Murphys… …   Wikipedia

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