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When Was the High Five Invented?

silhouette of two mens near seashore about to high five during sunset

The high five is a symbol of joy, celebration, and sportsmanship to some degree, and it’s something that we just know exists. Around the world, everyone knows what a high five is, and everyone knows that it symbolizes something good. But do you ever wonder where did high five come from? Who invented it, or how was it created? Well, let’s find out!

High Five Meaning and Definition

Before anything else, what exactly is a high five? If we look at the dictionary, it is both written as a noun and verb. Interestingly, the high five was only added by the Oxford English Dictionary to their list as a noun in 1980 and added as a verb in 1981. To date, the New Oxford American Dictionary sets the high five as a noun and a verb. 

high five | ˌhī ˈfīv |

informal, mainly North American

noun a gesture of celebration or greeting in which two people slap each other’s open palm with their arms raised:

they gave each other an exuberant high five in the middle of the press center

verb (high-five)

[with object]

greet with a high five:

the two officers high-fived each other

Is it high five or hi five?

There are accepted permutations on spelling “high five,” but it’s seen as “high five in the dictionary.” Other words can be a variant of the term “high five” like “High 5”. Overall, if you’re looking for the exact word, you can refer to it as “high five.”

What does the expression “high five” mean?

When someone expresses “high five,” that simply really means the person is inviting you to bring up your hands and slap them together, to express something in celebration and joy.

Who invented high 5?

There are several stories of where the high five originated, but we think there’s a considerable chance that the gesture originated from something sports-related.

This particular story that commenced in 1977 is likely the most famous story of the high five originated. The story claimed that the first high five happened at the Dodger Stadium during a baseball game. The action occurred between Glen Burke and Dusty Baker of the Los Angeles Dodgers. It was said that Baker hit a home run that was significant as that home run made the Dodgers team have four players in their team with 30 home runs each. After Baker’s home run, Glenn Burke was the next batter and decided to congratulate Baker. Burke then raised his hand toward Baker, who returned the gesture and smacked hands. And so, that was the first high five.

Interestingly, the Dodgers used the high five as their form of salute and symbol of team pride that they used when a player hit a home run.

This story is well documented, though there have been other stories and claims on how the high five started.

The first documented use of the phrase “high five” was in the 1979 movie The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh. In this movie, actor Robert Townsend delivered the famous line, “Give me a high five!” Soon after, the term became widespread, and people began using it in everyday conversations.

Although Dusty Baker and Glenn Burke are credited as the inventors of the modern high five, there is evidence that it has been used in some form for much longer. Historians believe that the gesture may have originated in the military, hundreds of years ago. Soldiers would cross arms and hit each other’s wrists as a sign of camaraderie and recognition.

In 1844, the term “slap five” was used in the song “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calveras County” by Mark Twain. The phrase meant to congratulate someone on something that was done well. Similarly, in 1897, the term “slap the five” was used in Rudyard Kipling’s novel “Captains Courageous.” It is unclear whether the term was a reference to the high five, or if it is merely a coincidence.

The high five is now a popular gesture all over the world. It is used to express joy and congratulations, and is popular among sports teams as a way to show team spirit. It is also often used in comedy and television shows as a form of slapstick comedy.

Despite its long history and widespread use, the invention of the high five is still attributed to Dusty Baker and Glenn Burke. Their modern rendition of the gesture popularized it, and made it a worldwide phenomenon. In 1999, they were inducted into the High Five Hall of Fame, cementing their place in history as the inventors of the high five.

Either way, we are convinced that the high five is fun, joyful, and celebratory! High Five!

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