What is the origin of applause? (Thinkstock)
What is the origin of applause?
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You asked us, what is the origin of applause?

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

Some of those rulers weren't above hiring professionals, either, 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 (26)
  • jocelync-Koc
    3/23/2015 - 02:04 a.m.

    It is cool to know where the origin of clapping really came from and how it was passed down. Imagine the world applause really meant something else and no one new about it that would be pretty funny. Well now we know and it is always good to learn something new everyday.

  • vincet-Koc
    3/23/2015 - 02:15 a.m.

    I think the reason behind the clap would be that if you are cheering you want to be loud so the clapping noise made it louder.

  • krystalv-Koc
    3/23/2015 - 02:59 a.m.

    Pretty interesting how things can just catch on to us like this. The more you do something it becomes a habit. Its almost like a sub conscious role our mind plays.

  • AB2000soccer
    3/23/2015 - 08:41 a.m.

    No one can find the origin of applause because it dates back so far and there are no documents on it. However applause is a sign of approval or joy and only humans were able to do this action.

  • TF000Music
    3/23/2015 - 01:03 p.m.

    I think that it's cool that theres no exact origin of the applause ecause youknow that it had to happen many years beofre hand. It's nice ho things keep a mystery but people wonder how it happened.

  • Haley Patterson
    3/23/2015 - 01:42 p.m.

    I actually never thought about how humans just started to put their hands together and then there was a noise. It's actually kind of funny to think that everyone in the world does this.

  • dianaz-Che
    3/23/2015 - 01:50 p.m.

    Applause is a sign of joy and approval. Humans clap for that reason, but monkeys and some other animals like apes, and gorillas clap for attention.

  • rositap-Che
    3/23/2015 - 01:52 p.m.

    I would think that clapping would come from ancient but would never think that its a thing. Like its not a thing where you realize like other things that are much bigger than clapping.

  • CapeleyZ-1
    3/23/2015 - 05:35 p.m.

    This article was about the origin of applause or clapping. There is no documented proof about when exactly people started clapping therefore it is impossible to know. We do know for sure that clapping was something that has been happening since the time of the Roman Empire. Clapping was a sign of showing rulers where they stood. Some people even clapped for their dinners to manipulate the crowds reactions. I thought hat it was very interesting to lear about the history of clapping.

  • AlexM-3
    3/23/2015 - 11:54 p.m.

    People aren't sure exactly when the tradition of applause began. We do know that it started long before the Roman Empire. During this time period people clapped, snapped and waved they togas to show their appreciation for the emperor. Other mammals clap to get attention. However, clapping to show approval or joy is mostly a human trait. I think it is interesting that applauding has been around for such a long time. It's weird that people used to hire professionals to clap to get the crowd excited. I love learning about the origin of these habits that seem like an every day occurrence.

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