Many people wonder what the word sláinte means, and why the word is used so often on St. Patrick’s Day. Sláinte (SLAHN-chə) is a Gaelic-Irish term for “good health,” an expression in Ireland that stems from the word slan, which means “safe.” According to a reader survey on IrishCentral.com, sláinte is the most used Irish expression in America.
The term can be used in several different contexts, but is most commonly spoken as a drinking toast in Ireland or Scotland. The tradition is to hold your Irish Harp Lager or Guinness in the air and shout “sláinte!” (cheers!) before taking a gulp.
Gaelic is an ancient language that has evolved into a wide array of different forms throughout the British Isles and in Ireland. It appears that Gaelic originated in Ireland, and persists as a living language in some areas of Ireland and Scotland.
The popularity of the term sláinte outside of Ireland can most likely be accredited to the pride that many people feel about their Irish and Scottish heritage. Irish and Scottish immigrants from several generations have traveled to different regions all across the globe, carrying their cultural values and native tongue with them.
People with Irish and Scottish lineage who reside in the United States truly enjoy celebrating their traditions with others, especially on St. Patrick’s Day. The holiday is a holy day in Ireland. St. Patrick’s Day is supposed to be a day of festivities with friends and family and to take pride in their Irish background. The rejoicing of the Gaelic culture is an idealization of the Irish and Scottish languages and customs observed by many regions worldwide.
Although sláinte is an Irish term for “good health,” the word has numerous other meanings and connotations as well. The expression is sometimes used after a drink has been purchased for another person. It is also exclaimed as a toast at the onset of a meal or celebration, welcoming all of the guests and wishing them good health.
Bars or restaurants with a Celtic theme often include sláinte in their names, which is meant to express good cheer, fellowship, and friendly connections.
Irish restaurants and bars to holler “sláinte!” at on St. Patrick’s Day in Las Vegas include: Jack’s Irish Pub at Palace Station, Paddy’s Pub on Pecos Rd., McFadden’s Restaurant & Saloon on S. Las Vegas Blvd., MuMullan’s Irish Pub near The Orleans, Ri Ra Irish Pub inside Mandalay Bay, Hennessey’s Tavern on Fremont Street and Nine Fine Irishmen inside New York New York Hotel and Casino.
Ireland has such an intriguing culture that people around the world are delighted to become a part of the merriment both on St. Patrick’s Day and throughout the year. The Irish term sláinte meaning “good health” has traveled to countries far and wide, and has become an important part of American history. If the opportunity presents itself, put on a green shirt, dance a little jig, spend St. Patrick’s Day with close family and friends, share a good Irish beverage, and exclaim “sláinte!” loudly with passion.
By Amy Nelson