Toasting traditions in France

  • Look directly into the eye of the person you are clinking glasses with.
  • NEVER cross your glass with someone else when you clink
  • Don’t drink before you clink! Be sure that everyone has clinked glasses before you get stuck in.
  • Take at least a sip directly after toasting and before putting your glass down.

Superstition? Yes, maybe… but they’re not quite as silly as they seem!

As we know, the history of France is jam-packed with intrigue, suspicion, passion, poison, and mysterious death.

It is believed that people drinking together would often exchange part of the contents of their drink with each other during a toast. In this way, they could all be sure that none of the glasses were poisoned. Hence the tradition of clicking glasses. Clever eh?

Looking deep into the toastee’s eyes was also important, in order to detect duplicity or stress – and not drinking immediately after toasting was considered suspicious in case you had popped a drop or two of arsenic into the group grog.

Some useful vocab



A votre santé (or A la vôtre) …… to more than one person or someone you would normally ‘vousvoie’. (use vous)

À ta santé ! (or A la tienne! ) ….. to someone you would normally ‘tutoie’ (use tu).




Je lève mon verre à – I raise my glass to..

Trinquer – to toast

Other useful vocab

Cul sec – down in one

Je suis pompette – I’m tipsy

Je suis ivre/saoul/*bourré/*cuite/*beurré/*torché/*pété – I’m drunk
(* not to be used with your neighbour’s grandmother!)

When drinking might give you the willies!

Clink your glasses and say tchin-tchin, (originally coming from Chinese qing qing) for ‘cheers’ in many countries of the world… but not in Japan where it is one of several words for ‘penis’!

Drinking songs

The Brits may have a bit of a boozy reputation but the French have a long tradition of toasts with body parts. Here is one of the most famous drinking songs (chanson à boire).

Ask any French friend for the simple tune. You will note that the body parts mentioned have been ‘latinised’. Can you work out what they are?


Il/elle est des nôtres (He/She is one of us)

Ami (name), ami (name)
Lève ton verre
Et surtout ne le renverse pas
Et porte le
Au frontibus
Au nasibus
Au mentibus
Au ventribus
Au fessibus
Au sexibus
Et glou, et glou, et glou..

Il/elle est des nôtres
Il/elle a bu son verre comme les autres
C’est un ivrogne
On le reconnaît rien qu’à sa trogne



renverse – spill
ivrogne – drunkard
trogne – face (mug)

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