Woo hoo! Whether you just scored a hat trick on the soccer field or aced a big test at school, you might want to celebrate by raising your hand high in the air toward a friend or teammate. As they do the same and you slap hands together, you both join in the celebration.

That’s right! We’re talking about the high five. Although it seems like the high five has been around forever, the Oxford English Dictionary has only included the term as a noun since 1980 and as a verb (the act of doing the high five) since 1981.

The name “high five” obviously comes from the fact that you’re raising five fingers (your hand) up in the air (high) when doing the celebratory hand gesture. But exactly how did this time-honored way of celebrating get started? As it turns out, there are several different versions of how the high five got started. The two most likely sources of the high five come from the sports of baseball and basketball.

For years, many people have believed that the first high five took place on October 2, 1977, in Dodger Stadium between Glenn Burke and Dusty Baker of the Los Angeles Dodgers. That day was the last day of the regular season. Dusty Baker hit a home run that made the Dodgers the first team in baseball history to have four players with at least 30 home runs each.

It was one of those magical sports moments that boded well for the Dodgers, who were heading into the playoffs. The next batter was Glenn Burke, and he headed to home plate to congratulate Baker as he rounded the bases.

Burke raised his hand triumphantly in the air toward Baker who returned the gesture and they smacked hands. According to Baker, “[h]is hand was up in the air, and he was arching way back. So I reached up and hit his hand. It seemed like the thing to do.” And the rest, as they say, was history…

Or was it? Another version of high five history credits the invention of the hand gesture to Louisville Cardinals basketball players Wiley Brown and Derek Smith during the 1978-79 season. According to the players, Brown went to give a regular low five to teammate Smith during a practice session.

The low five had been a hand gesture popular among African-Americans since at least World War II. Instead of returning the low five, Smith looked Brown in the eye and said, “No. Up high.” Brown understood what Smith was getting at.

The Louisville Cardinals players that year were known as the Doctors of Dunk, because they liked to play above the rim and slam dunk the ball. Brown thought, why stay low when we play so high? So they raised their hands and the high five was supposedly born.

Both stories are well documented. But there are many other claims of high fives occurring in other sports even earlier. More than likely, the gesture developed simultaneously in different sports in different areas until it gained popularity.

One thing’s for certain, though. The high five is a part of popular culture that is not likely to go away anytime soon. So the next time you want to celebrate an achievement with a friend, just yell “High five!” and stick your hand in the air!

86 Join the Discussion

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    • Hello, Jaquaisa! Thanks so much for being the first Wonder Friend to leave us a comment on today’s Wonder of the Day®, and THANK YOU for sharing when you think the “high five” originated! :-)

  1. Today’s wonder was wonderful. I never knew when the first high-5 was created so, I would like to thank you for the information.

    • You’re very welcome, Isabel! We’d like to thank YOU for stopping by Wonderopolis today and sharing your AWESOME comment with us! We’re glad you our Wonder Friend! :-)

    • Hi, Shundee! We encourage you to explore today’s Wonder of the Day® to find out who invented the high five. There are a few interesting stories behind it! :-)

    • Thanks for letting us know you thought today’s Wonder was interesting, Hannah! We appreciate your comment and we hope you have a WONDERful day! :-)

    • We invite you to re-explore today’s Wonder to find out the history of the “high five,” Sydney! There are LOTS of fun facts inside today’s Wonder and even a link to learn more about James Naismith, the inventor of basketball! :-)

    • It makes us super happy that you liked today’s awesome Wonder of the Day® about high fives, Cha Cha! Thanks for letting us know! :-)

  2. I think that the next wonder of the day is how some people eat when they are stressed. Desserts spelled backwards is stressed so it could be about that.

    • That’s a really good guess about tomorrow’s Wonder, Abrianna! We like the way your Wonder brain works! We’ll all have to visit Wonderopolis again tomorrow to see if your guess was correct! :-)

  3. Dear Wonderoplis,

    We loved reading today’s Wonder in our kindergarten class! We were wondering who invented the “fist pump” (give me the “rock”, finger knuckle bump, or hitting knuckles)?

    Thanks for the teaching us something new everyday!
    Mrs. Russell’s Class

    • Thanks for leaving us such an AWESOME comment today, Mrs. Russell’s Class! Everyone here in Wonderopolis is really happy to hear that you guys like learning new things with us every day! We’re not sure who invented the “fist pump,” but we think that would make a GREAT future Wonder of the Day®! Keep WONDERing…we think you guys ROCK! :-)

    • Happy Monday, Gloria! We’re glad you thought today’s Wonder was awesome and cool! We think YOU are awesome and cool for being such a GREAT Wonder Friend! Thanks for hanging out in Wonderopolis with us today! :-)

    • A Wonder about smiley faces WOULD be really cute, “:)!” Thanks for suggesting it! We’re glad you like learning in Wonderopolis…we sure do, too! :-)

  4. I never really thought that high 5’s were invented. I’ve just imagined them always existing. I predict tomorrow’s wonder is about livestock. Can you do a wonder on some of the new dwarf planets scientists have discovered?

    • That’s why it’s fun to visit Wonderopolis, Firebolt 101…sometimes you get to find out cool facts about things you’ve WONDERed and sometimes you get to learn about things you’ve never WONDERed about before! Thanks for sharing what you think tomorrow’s Wonder will be about and also for giving us an idea for a future Wonder of the Day®! :-)

    • We like that question, Tanner! We think it would make a GREAT future Wonder…thanks so much for sharing it with everyone in Wonderopolis today! :-)

    • Thanks for letting us know what you thought about the video for today’s Wonder, Caelah! We appreciate your opinion! We think it’s cool that your uncle taught you how to make those great smiley faces! :-)

  5. I love it! I do high fives with my friends all the time! Do you want to give some people high fives, Wonderopolis? I gesture you a high five!

    • YES, Wonder Friend, “D!” We would love to give all of our AWESOME Wonder Friends (like YOU!) a virtual “high five!” Way to go, guys…we think you ROCK! :-)

  6. We do not know what you mean by tomorrow’s wonder…but are excited to find out! We might think tomorrow’s wonder is why onions make you cry. We love to high five, low five and six five! Thanks for another amazing wonder!

    • Hello to all of our WONDERful Wonder Friends in Mr. Draper’s class! Thanks for sharing that you love to give high fives! We do, too! In fact, consider yourselves “high-fived” for leaving us such an AWESOME comment today! :-)

  7. He didn’t teach me how to make these: :) and these:( actually. I was trying to do the other kind of :) faces. They didn’t turn up the way I made them. I really made them with a : ( and ).

    • That’s OK, Caelah! We’re glad you shared the smiley faces that you did! They made our day (and made us smile!)! Thank you! :-)

    • That’s a GREAT Wonder, Olivia! Wonderopolis was created by LOTS of awesome people who wanted to share a new way to make learning FUN! Thank you for visiting today’s Wonder…we’re glad you’re here! :-)

  8. We like giving high fives!

    At first we thought tomorrow’s Wonder might be about onions until we saw your last post. We can’t wait for tomorrow because we don’t know what it might be about! We’ll keep thinking about it!

    • We like that you guys are going to keep your Wonder brains thinking about what tomorrow’s Wonder might be, Miss Kirsten’s Kindergarten GT Class! We’ll give you (and our other Wonder Friends who have commented) another quick hint: Think of what colorful word might also mean “sad.” :-)

  9. I don’t really think there is a way to figure out God was made. It’s just another mystery, same thing with the unknown side of the moon “or dark side.”

    • Hi there, Clayton! We’re glad you’re exploring different Wonders in Wonderopolis today and leaving us comments! We appreciate your opinion! :-)

    • We do, too, Shyear! Thank you for being a GREAT Wonder Friend and leaving us a comment on today’s Wonder! YOU ROCK! :-)

    • We’re super sorry you didn’t care for the video for today’s Wonder, Robert, but we appreciate your opinion! We search for the best videos to go with each Wonder. Sometimes those videos help explain the Wonder better, and sometimes they are just something that is fun about the Wonder. Thank you for letting us know what you thought about the video! :-)

  10. It doesn’t matter who invented it, because everybody does it. That is the most common thing to do. I didn’t like this wonder today. I want tomorrow’s to be about a play or poetry.

    • Hello, Mrs. Wilbanks! Thank you for sharing your feelings about today’s Wonder! We appreciate your opinion and thank you for your comment! :-)

    • We think purple is a GREAT color, E.B.! It is a favorite of many Wonder Friends! Thanks for hanging out in Wonderopolis with us today! :-)

    • We’re super sorry you’re having trouble viewing today’s Wonder video, Ruth. Some schools and school districts put “blocks” on websites and videos because they are in charge of making sure the videos and links that students see while exploring the internet at school are safe for viewing. Because the videos we choose to go along with each of our Wonders are “borrowed” from many different places around the internet, like YouTube and Vimeo, it might be a “block” from your school or district that is keeping you from seeing the Wonder video. You might want to check with your teacher or librarian to see about getting the block removed! :-)

    • We’re glad you thought today’s Wonder was interesting and that it was something you had always WONDERed about, Annie! We had FUN learning about the origins of the “high five,” and we’re glad you did, too! Have a WONDERful day! :-)

    • We’re sorry you didn’t care for today’s Wonder video, Kailynn! We hope you will visit Wonderopolis again tomorrow to learn something new with us! :-)

    • It makes us super happy to hear that you enjoyed learning something new from the Wonder video today, Monnie! We agree…that sound the air pocket makes adds a little “pizazz” to the high five! :-)

    • That’s a GREAT question, Alice! We think it would probably just sound more like a “slap” than a “pop!” Thanks so much for hanging out in Wonderopolis with us today and for leaving us this GREAT comment! :-)

  11. I think that the video is very weird. We tried it all day and it worked. I thought that was very weird, too. I wonder who invented the hand shake. You should do a wonder on that!! Thank you for responding!!

    • Another awesome Wonder Friend suggested a future Wonder about handshakes today, too, Cassidy! Great Wonder minds think alike! Thanks for letting us know what you thought about today’s video. We appreciate your opinion! :-)

    • Thanks so much for your comment today, Saad! We really appreciate you being a GREAT Wonder Friend and visiting Wonderopolis! :-)

  12. I think this wonder was super cool. Because one day I was thinking and I thought about who made up the high five.

    • Woo, hoo! We LOVE hearing about cool coincidences like that, Madison! There’s always something new, interesting and FUN to learn when you visit Wonderopolis! :-)

  13. Hi, wonderopolis! Although I am doing high five almost everyday with my friends, I did not know when it began and who started it. I felt so interesting to hear that the high five started by baseball players and basketball players. In sports, people do the high five to celebrate the triumph. I am wondering why people do the high five only with friends they like.

    • We’re really glad you liked learning about the high five in Wonderopolis today, Hannah! Way to go! Thanks for stopping by this Wonder of the Day® and leaving us this AWESOME comment! :-)

  14. Hi Wonderopolis People,
    I think the video was funny because the guys in it seemed like they were high five pros. They thought that they could be the best high fivers in all. I’m pretty good at high fiving, myself. Anyway, there were two words that I’ve really never had heard of. Those words were boded and triumphantly. Those were some pretty interesting words. That’s cool that people believe that the first high five was on October 2, 1977 (believed). That’s also cool thinking that the African-Americans would do low fives. That would actually be kind of hard I think. I wonder if African-Americans INVENTED the low five. What I mean by invented is that it said that it was popular among them, but did they invent it?

    Your Wonderopolis Friend,
    Team McNeil 6

    • Here’s a Wonderopolis “high five” for all the GREAT WONDERing you did today, Team McNeil 6! We enjoyed hearing the cool facts and new words you learned by exploring this Wonder of the Day®! We will both have to do some more WONDERing about who actually invented the low five. We appreciate you helping us WONDER more about that, too! :-)

  15. Hey thanks for telling me how the high five started, it is very interesting, I would never have known if it wasn’t for Wonderopolis. :)

    • Hi there, Haleigh! We’re so glad that you’re WONDERing about that classic greeting– we are sending you a virtual high five now! :) We hope you have a SUPER day– don’t forget to share the high five with others today! :)

    • Hey there, Moviebuff! Thank you for sharing your comment about the high five! We wish there was video footage to document the very first high five, but we enjoy hearing the stories about Dodgers and the Louisville Cardinals players! We high five all the time here at Wonderopolis! How do you celebrate a winning goal or a great game? Do you high five? :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Who invented the high five?
  • How long has the high five been around?
  • Can you create your own celebratory hand gesture?

Wonder Gallery

High Five_shutterstock_11689066Vimeo Video

Try It Out

So how do you like to celebrate your accomplishments with your teammates and friends? The high five is certainly a classic. But what other kinds of celebrations can you dream up?

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to come up with a new way of celebrating with friends and teammates. It can involve the hands or the feet or even the knees or the elbows. It’s up to you!

Your creation could be a special handshake, a dance or a chant, or a modified version of the high five. Let your brain roam wild. Daydream about winning the school spelling bee or your next soccer game. What kind of celebration would make your accomplishment extra special?

When you’ve come up with your new celebration, share it with your Wonder Friends. Take a picture or video of your new celebration and post it on Facebook. We can’t wait to see what you come up with!

Still Wondering

Check out ReadWriteThink’s James Naismith calendar activity to learn more about the man who invented the game of basketball!

Wonder What’s Next?

Tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day might sound sad, but it’ll make you happy if you’re hungry!

Upload a Photo or Paste the URL of a YouTube or SchoolTube Video.