The word is Italian, but it derives from an old German phrase, (ich) bring dir's – "(I) offer it to you", which at one time was used to introduce a toast. The transformation of that phrase into the current Italian word may have been influenced by similar-sounding name of the Italian city of Brindisi, but otherwise the city and the term are etymologically unrelated.
The term brindisi is often used in opera. Typically, in an operatic brindisi, one character introduces a toast with a solo melody and the full ensemble later joins in the refrain.
Some well-known operatic numbers labeled brindisi are:
- "Libiamo ne' lieti calici", sung by Alfredo and Violetta in act 1 of Verdi's La traviata
- "Viva, il vino spumeggiante", sung by Turiddu in scene 2 of Mascagni's Cavalleria rusticana
- "Il segreto per esser felici", sung by Orsini in act 2 of Donizetti's Lucrezia Borgia
- "Inaffia l'ugola!", sung by Iago in act 1 of Verdi's Otello
- "Si colmi il calice", sung by Lady Macbeth in act 2 of Verdi's Macbeth
- "The Tea-Cup Brindisi", in the finale of act 1 of Gilbert and Sullivan's The Sorcerer
- "Ô vin, dissipe la tristesse" sung by Hamlet in act 2 of Thomas's Hamlet
- Lo Zingarelli: Vocabolario della lingua italiana. Zanichelli. 1997.