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, though it's definitely an ancient and widespread behavior. 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 to 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 (88)
  • eleezaf-Cut
    3/20/2015 - 09:41 a.m.

    I think that clapping for approval is a wonderful tradition. People on stage can know how well they preformed or how well the crowd enjoyed what they did by the reaction they get at the end. If it sounds like an uproar you know you did well. But if it's a strained and board clap you can tell that they weren't really listening.

  • nderp-Mia
    3/20/2015 - 09:55 a.m.

    IT would come for long a go very long a go. IT is weird how they would pay people.I wonder how much they would get payed.think they might have done it for mating calls.

  • DunhamS-4
    3/20/2015 - 11:06 a.m.

    This article was about the origin of applause. Applause originated by the time the Roman empire was at its peak. We have even seen apes like gorillas and monkeys a plotting for each other as well. When plopping was around during the Roman empire rulers even hired professional clappers to collect for their dinner so that the crowd would have the same reaction.

  • genesisl-boo
    3/20/2015 - 11:22 a.m.

    Wow that is amazing that we can't even tell when we started let alone apes can do it to. So maybe apes did it long ago even before us.

  • ganar123
    3/20/2015 - 11:57 a.m.

    I didn't know the Ancient Rome started the Applause but, now I know why they clap for because, they are happy with what the king or what every the person on the stage was doing that is good and great

  • RJC2000Red
    3/20/2015 - 01:09 p.m.

    I think that clapping might of started when mabye someone wanted to congratulate someone on something they did.

  • preciousa1028
    3/20/2015 - 01:39 p.m.

    I think it's pretty cool that people can clap for joy and happiness now because if they don't know how it originated then they might not know how it was first used so if it was first used as a sign of carelessness or something then I think it's pretty cool how some things change overtime

  • MiloW-4
    3/20/2015 - 03:58 p.m.

    There isn't an origin of the action of clapping, but clapping shows apreciation and joy for something. This I thought to have started because people follow other people when they do certain actions. This is a widespread behaivior and almost all places of people do this. It is also shown that other animals like gorillas, chimps, and orangutangs do this action to draw attention. This interesting because it is amazing how a simple action is spread worldwide and it is a very common action in our society.

  • AugustH-5
    3/20/2015 - 04:03 p.m.

    Clapping is an ancient and wide spread behavior. It would be impossible for someone to find out who was the first person to clap. But we do now it started by the time of the Roman Empire. In Roman Empire would clap,snap, and do other things during sporting events. Rulers would hire people to clap for them to minipulate crowd reactions. Even animals clap like gorrilas and monkeys. I think cplapping has been used since the beging of man kind, but there is know way to find that out.

  • LucasF-1
    3/20/2015 - 04:04 p.m.

    This article was about the way applause was discovered. It is a very old and widespread practice. It is impossible to know who created clapping thousands of years ago. We do know it was around by the time of ancient Rome. Many apes put their hands together as well, such as gorillas and chimpanzees. I thought this article was cool, but taught me nothing.

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