Why is it called a high five?

Origin of the High Five

The high five is a widely recognized and commonly used hand gesture, but have you ever wondered why it’s called a “high five”? Let’s explore the origins and meaning behind this popular expression of celebration and camaraderie.

The Dusty Baker and Glenn Burke Story

One popular origin story of the high five dates back to October 2, 1977, during a baseball game at Dodger Stadium. Dusty Baker, a player for the Los Angeles Dodgers, hit a crucial home run. As Baker rounded the bases and returned to home plate, he raised his hand in triumph. In that moment, Glenn Burke, a teammate, enthusiastically thrust his hand over his head to greet Baker. Their palms connected with an audible “slap,” and the high five was born.

The Louisville Cardinals Basketball Practice Story

Another origin story credits the invention of the high five to a basketball practice session of the University of Louisville Cardinals during the 1978-1979 season. Wiley Brown, a forward on the team, intended to give his teammate Derek Smith a low five, a hand gesture popular among Black Americans since at least World War II. However, Smith suggested they go high instead. They raised their hands, palm to palm, above their heads, and the high five emerged as a new way to celebrate their achievements on the court.

Meaning and Usage

The high five is a hand gesture where two people simultaneously raise one hand each, about head-high, and push, slide, or slap the flat of their palm against the other person’s palm. It is often accompanied by phrases like “Give me five,” “High five,” “Up top,” or “Slap hands”.

The high five holds various meanings depending on the context. It is commonly used as a form of greeting, congratulations, or celebration. Whether it’s a successful play on the sports field, a personal achievement, or simply a way to express camaraderie, the high five has become a symbolic gesture of positive interaction and shared enthusiasm.

The Enduring Popularity of the High Five

The high five’s popularity has transcended its origins and has become deeply ingrained in popular culture. From sports arenas to everyday interactions, people use the high five to celebrate victories, show support, and foster a sense of connection.

Its simplicity and universality contribute to its enduring appeal. The act of raising one’s hand and slapping palms with another person creates a physical and audible affirmation, fostering a sense of shared accomplishment and joy.

In conclusion, the high five derived its name from the act of raising one’s hand high and slapping palms with another person. While its exact origins may have multiple stories, the high five’s widespread usage and cultural significance have solidified it as a powerful gesture of celebration and unity.



Why is it called a high five?

What is the origin of the term “high five”?

The term “high five” originated from the physical action of raising one’s hand high and slapping palms with another person. It is a descriptive term that captures the gesture’s visual and physical qualities.

How did the high five gesture become popular?

The high five gained popularity through its association with sports and celebratory moments. Athletes started using the gesture to acknowledge and congratulate each other on successful plays, and it quickly spread to other contexts as a way to express joy, support, and camaraderie.

Are there different stories about the invention of the high five?

Yes, there are multiple stories about the invention of the high five. One story involves Dusty Baker and Glenn Burke of the Los Angeles Dodgers during a baseball game in 1977. Another story attributes its origin to a University of Louisville Cardinals basketball practice in 1978-1979. These stories highlight different individuals and moments, contributing to the overall folklore surrounding the high five’s invention.

What is the meaning behind the high five gesture?

The high five is often used as a form of celebration, congratulations, or greeting. It serves as a positive affirmation and a way to share excitement and achievement. The physical contact and sound produced by the hand slap add to the gesture’s impact and create a sense of connection between individuals.

Can the high five have different interpretations in various cultures?

While the high five is widely recognized and used in many cultures, its specific interpretations may vary. In some cultures, similar gestures may carry different meanings or have alternative names. However, the overall concept of raising one’s hand high and slapping palms to celebrate or show support is a universal expression of positive interaction.

Is the high five limited to specific contexts or can it be used in everyday situations?

The high five can be used in a wide range of contexts, including sports, personal achievements, social gatherings, and even casual interactions among friends. Its versatility and simplicity make it suitable for both formal and informal settings, allowing people to express enthusiasm and connection in various situations.

Are there variations of the high five gesture?

Yes, there are variations of the high five gesture that involve different hand positions or additional movements. Some examples include the low five (where the hands are lowered instead of raised), the air five (a high five performed without physical contact), and the double high five (a high five involving both hands). These variations add diversity and creativity to the gesture, allowing individuals to personalize their celebratory interactions.

Has the high five gesture influenced other similar hand gestures?

The high five has undoubtedly influenced and inspired other hand gestures. For example, the fist bump and the chest bump are variations that have gained popularity in certain contexts. These gestures share the underlying principles of physical connection, celebration, and mutual acknowledgement that are characteristic of the high five.