What is the origin of applause? (Thinkstock)
What is the origin of applause?
Lexile

You asked us, what is the origin of applause?

Well, it's impossible to know exactly when people first started clapping. It's definitely an ancient and widespread behavior though. It had certainly caught on by the time of the Roman Empire. That's when crowds would clap, snap and wave the edge of their togas. It would let rulers know exactly where things stood.

Some of those rulers weren't above hiring professionals either. There were people who literally clapped for their dinner to manipulate crowd reactions.

Speaking of trained monkeys, we're not the only species that put our hands together. Other great apes like gorillas, chimps and orangutans sometimes clap their hands to draw attention.

But applause -- clapping as a sign of approval or joy -- is actually a learned behavior. And for the most part, it seems to be limited to humans.

Bravo to us humans. For more stories like this, check us out every day at Smithsonian.com.


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COMMENTS (10)
  • JackS-4
    3/20/2015 - 12:44 p.m.

    Clapping has always been a symbol of applause. It has been around for thousands of years, dating back to ancient Rome. Some emperors would actually hire professionals to clap to sway crowds by clapping. Humans aren't the only ones to clap, however. Apes have also been known to clap to draw attention.

    Clapping has been around for as long as I can remember. It is kind of weird to try to sway crowds with professional clappers.

  • AndreasG-Kut
    3/22/2015 - 05:10 p.m.

    I think it interesting how other species clap just like us. I think it is also cool how ancient clapping is.

  • samuelw-Hyl
    3/23/2015 - 11:55 a.m.

    I liked this article because I know what animals clap and how we learn how to clap and what people in roam.

  • JacobM-5
    3/24/2015 - 12:19 p.m.

    This article is about finding the origins of applause. It was very hard to get the exact way but it was a way to get attention at first. Some belief that it's because some apes and monkeys do it for attention a in thankfulness. Some also did it to show the server or
    giver where it stood.

  • robertd-Hyl
    3/25/2015 - 12:02 p.m.

    I know that applause has been around for a while because my mom went to a concert when she was a kid and i bet she clapped. Also at first i thought the story was going to be about apple sauce that's what I thought the picture said. Another thing is that all people learn how to clap when they are like 3 years old.

  • aliciac-Hyl
    3/25/2015 - 12:07 p.m.

    So monkeys can sort of clap like us, humans, and we think Romans were the first to clap, and very rich people clap twice for food among other things. Um, hello when did monkeys start clapping, and how do we know that dinosaurs did not or did clap, wait we don't. No one is still alive today that lived with the Romans, so how do we have knowledge about what had gone on in the time of the Romans?

  • caitlynnk-Hyl
    3/25/2015 - 12:08 p.m.

    That is very interesting I never knew that humans clapped that long ago. I also new that apes can clap but not other kinds of apes. I wonder how long humans have clapped for. But one thing is for sure Me my mom and dad do not clap for our dinner. I also wonder some thing else who invented cl aping maybe a person saw a ape doing it and did it to. But when did humans start clapping for a good show. I guess some questions can never be answered. Unless we had a time Machine but we don't. Thank you for sharing this atrial with me Mr.hyland

  • AddyS-Mau
    3/26/2015 - 11:20 a.m.

    I like this story I love clapping when something happens that is good or that is amazing I love that . I like searching thing up that how or when they where made that is awesome i was going to search that but now i know and it is amazing that they don't know when clapping started it is that maybe will be found out some day

  • AddyS-Mau
    3/26/2015 - 11:27 a.m.

    My parents don't clap for dinner or lunch or breakfast or when they eat a snack. they don,t have a made so they would not clap for a made the only thing they would clap for is to say some thing is good or to be nice

  • ashleighb-Hyl
    3/26/2015 - 12:02 p.m.

    I liked this article. It was interesting to learn that in ancient times they used to clap their hands. It was also interesting that apes clap their hands to get attention. I am a big fan of Roman and Greek mythology so it was cool to know that Romans clapped their hands to let rulers know where something stood. I liked this article:)

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