The term “Toast” has many different origins and meanings in the past.
In the first century BCE, the Roman Senate decreed that the health of the Emperor Augustus be drank to at every meal. However, it often transformed into a somewhat drinking game.
According to Geoffrey of Monmouth in his 12th century History of the Kings of Britain, the first recorded toast in England took place in 450 CE, at a feast honoring British King Vortigern by his Saxon allies. Both parties drank as “Louerd King, waes hael” was shouted, which translates to “Good Health”.
The 20th century brings with it another different origin. A wassail bowl was a large single bowl from which everyone shared a drink. This relates to the tradition of the loving cup, in which a large two handled cup is passed from dinner to dinner, with everyone taking a drink. Traditionally guests stood up three at a time as their turn arrives: one person to pass the cup, one to drink, and one to defend the temporarily defenseless drinker. This derived from the story that King Edward was stabbed to death by his stepmother whilst drinking a cup of mead.
Another origin of toasting, drinking to someone’s health, comes from a literal piece of spiced or charred toast, a tidbit once routinely dropped in a cup or bowl of wine, either to make the wine taste better or as a form of h’or d’oeuvre. This is mentioned in The Merry Wives of Windsor, by Shakespeare. By the 18th century, toasting had been transferred from the floating bread to the person honored by the toast.
In previous centuries, often governed by a complex hierarchical etiquette of who could toast whom and when, was largely an excuse for excessive drinking. At banquettes, bulging full glasses of wine were raised to the king.