my first thought, seeing the name of the questioner, was that maybe it has something to do with baseball? but that's not what i found when i did a quick etymology search and found the following at etymonline.com:
CHEERS c.1225, from Anglo-Norm. chere "the face," from O.Fr. chiere, from L.L. cara "face," from Gk. kara "head," from PIE base *ker- "head." Already by M.E. meaning had extended metaphorically to "mood, demeanor, mental condition" as reflected in the face. Could be in a good or bad sense ("The feend ... beguiled her with treacherye, and brought her into a dreerye cheere," "Merline," c.1500), but positive sense has predominated since c.1400. Meaning "shout of encouragement" first recorded 1720, perhaps nautical slang (earlier "to encourage by words or deeds," c.1430). Cheer up (intrans.) first attested 1676. Cheers as a salute or toast when taking a drink is British, 1919. Cheerleader first recorded 1903, Amer.Eng. Cheerful is from c.1400.
you might want to explain the clinking glasses part. it is pretty interesting. go sox.
From what I have been taught, the clinking of glasses comes from medeival days. After the King's personal wine taster tried the wine to ensure that is wasn't poisoned, the King would pour a small amount of his wine into the person next to him's glass. that person would pour some into the next glass, and so on. This showed that everyone trusted the King (since, if there was any poison it would have been passed from glass to glass), and that they would all remain healthy from the wine. Naturally, since they were pouring from glass to glass, there was a "clinking". Really, we clink glasses to show we are happy to be with those that we are sharing the wine, and we are toasting to trust and health.
Enjoyed the posts! through travels, I have heard many versions of cheers (& will no doubt misspell all): broast, skol, chin, kompi, etc... are a few but one universal norm, outside the US, is always looking someone in the eye when toasting.
Another norm is never to raise your glass above the line of your heart.
Regarding Skål or Skaal, there is an interesting story behind it, although I cannot guarantee it is anything more than legend.
It is said that the vikings drank from the skulls of their slain enemies. The word for skull and the word Skål would then be directly related. In modern Swedish, the word for skull is "skalle" and the word for chalice or cup is "Skål". The relation to english skull seems obvious.
Many eastern European languages have “to your health” as a toast. Once in one Budapest hotel I asked concierge to teach me how to pronounce cheers in Hungarian. Mission impossible. And the word is egeszsegedre. Na zdravje schoolmarm.
Yeah, grun, its going downhill - besides, they probably had skulls of different national origin for diferrent meads as well.
Malvasia, "to your health" is indeed common throughout nearly all European languages. Salut, Salud, in those of Latin origin. I wager a good corksrwew that it probably was used that way even back in roman times (Salve).
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