From what I can gather, Prost is the colloquial form of Prosit. However, I’ve searched around quite a bit and I see all sorts of explanations. A lot of them explain it the same way, almost word-for-word, as that found on the Wikipedia page for toasts. However, I’ve also seen responses from people who say they are native Germans and they say they’ve never even heard the word Prosit.

So, even if we take the single-source Wikipedia explanation as true, what are the differences in usage? Is it simply that Prosit is old-fashioned and most people just say Prost, or is it regional (I seen some claim it is a Germany/Austria difference, and some suggest it is a Hochdeutsch/Bairisch difference)?

For what it’s worth, John Banner, who was born in Austria and came to the United States speaking only German, says Prosit several times on various episodes of Hogan’s Heroes. It is also the name of an oft-played song at Oktoberfest:

Ein Prosit, ein Prosit der Gemütlichkeit

  • Trivia: In Sweden we say ”prosit” after someone sneezes. – Fredrik Sep 13 at 12:35
  • Prosit has an i (and therefore one syllable) more than prost. Thats all. They mean the same – Hubert Schölnast Sep 13 at 14:11
  • @Fredrik This was also common in southern parts of Germany. But I haven't heard it anymore for quite some time. – aventurin Sep 13 at 21:49
up vote 7 down vote accepted

The most logical reasoning that I can follow is Prosit being the outdated or higher-class term. When picturing a group in a bar, all I can hear them say is Prost, never Prosit. At the same time, the Bavarian cultural song ein Prosit that you quote is frozen in a not-entirely modern German.

However I can imagine someone important in a suit standing up at a high-class dinner and calling a toast for somebody else important in a suit and doing so by saying ‘ein Prosit auf unseren Gastgeber Herrn Professor Doktor Hubermayr!’ But, he could also say Prost (although I would think it slightly less likely).

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    Agree. Prosit is still used in specific circumstances, and beyond that by anyone who wants to show off they know their Latin. – tofro Oct 24 '16 at 9:55

Both words stem from the same source, lat. prosit, i.e. literally may it be beneficial (~ to your health).

Prosit is certainly higher register, but rarely used these days, except for a few well-known collocations. Ein Prosit der Gemütlichkeit has been mentioned, the only other one I can think of off the top of my head is Prosit Neujahr (Happy New Year). If you're drinking to somebody's health, it's always Prost.

  • Even the "Happy New Year" is usually spoken "Prost Neujahr", at least in the northern parts of Germany. – Volker Landgraf Sep 18 at 9:57
  • Only there, I suppose. In my region (Eastern Austria) the i (as in Prosit) is very clearly audible. – Ingmar Sep 19 at 6:31

Prosit is tipicaly used during Oktoberfest and in Bavaria. Anyone ever being at an Oktoberfest will be familiar with the term. While the rest of Germany usuaully uses the term Prost, as well as other such as zum Wohl, Glück aus, etc. Similar to English where we use cheers and others such as “over the lips and through the gums watch out stomach here it comes” they’re all regional for the same wonderfull reason.

Prosit was (and may still be) part of the formulaic and intricate ritual (the "Bierkomment") used in the German drinking societies to toast each others' health. You can read about this in Maurice Baring's "Puppet Show of Memory", pp. 121ff.

I have a German friend and once mentioned this ritual to him. He told me how much he hated the very idea of it, because of its association with the the German aristocracy and the Nazis.

Though Prosit may very well be used elsewhere, this association might be why it's gone out of style.

  • I don’t associate Prosit with nazis, but maybe it’s because I’m Bavarian and ‘Ein Prosit der Gemütlichkeit’ is so common here? – Jan Dec 16 '17 at 18:01

My family derives from Berlin. All I recall that I ever heard at family gatherings was "Prosit."

  • This is not an answer to the question, only a comment. Earn some reputation and you will be able to post comments too. – user unknown Oct 22 at 23:27

Short answer: Prosit is Austrian, Prost is German.

This handy map of the distribution of both words shows it.

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    Your links only mentions a very special case, namely "happy new year", and there are lots of variations besides Pros(i)t Neujahr. – Ingmar Dec 15 '15 at 14:04
  • Yes, but it very clearly shows the regional distribution of both words, and some data is better than relying on personal anecdotes and no data at all ;) – Phasma Dec 15 '15 at 14:49
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    I disagree, at least in this case. It shows the regional distribution between frohes/gutes/gesundes neues (Jahr) and Pros(i)t Neujahr. While the collocation "Prosit Neujahr" is more common in Austria than in some parts of Germany, this provides no insight in the case of Prost vs. Prosit used in other context. – Ingmar Dec 15 '15 at 15:24
  • It certainly shows that "Prosit" is extremely rare outside of Austria and Bavaria. The fact that all the answers to the contrary (and I assume the downvotes) are from people living either in Austria or Bavaria and seem convinced that everybody uses it the way they do does not mean this is the standard German usage. As someone from the Cologne area, I cannot imagine anyone ever saying "Prosit", it is completely unknown here, and as such must be a local variation. – Phasma Jan 5 '16 at 17:40
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    It would never occur to me (Mecklenburg) to say Prost Neujahr, Prosit would be the expected version (with Frohes Neues as alternative). Definitely not simply Austrian. – Chieron Oct 24 '16 at 9:07

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