Gimme Five!*

You’ve probably seen it, usually after something exciting has happened, especially if you watch American sports. Two players approach (move toward) each other, raise their hands simultaneously (at the same time), and, when they are close enough, slap (hit with the flat part of the hand) their hands together. It’s called the high five.

So who started the high five? When? Where? The low five, with the hands down, goes back to World War II among African American servicemen (men in the military). But, according to a recent article in ESPN The Magazine, no one is sure about the high five. However, there are a couple of interesting possibilities.

The first story gives credit (says he did it) to Glen Burke, a Los Angeles Dodger baseball player, for inventing the high five.  Supposedly (many people believe) it happened in front of 46,000 screaming fans (someone who likes a sport very much) at Dodger stadium in 1977. Here’s how ESPN writer Jon Mooallem tells the story:

It was the last day of the regular season, and Dodgers left fielder Dusty Baker had just gone deep (hit the ball out of the stadium, a home run)…. It was Baker’s 30th home run, making the Dodgers the first team in history to have four sluggers (baseball players who hit the ball a long way) — Baker, Ron Cey, Steve Garvey and Reggie Smith — with at least 30 homers each. It was a wild, triumphant (full of pride, pleasure) moment and a good omen (sign of what will happen in the future) as the Dodgers headed to the playoffs. Burke, waiting on deck, thrust (moved suddenly) his hand enthusiastically (with excitement) over his head to greet his friend…. Baker, not knowing what to do, smacked (hit) it. “His hand was up in the air, and he was arching (bending) way back,” says Baker, now 62…. “So I reached up and hit his hand. It seemed like the thing to do.”

The second story credits Wiley Brown and Derek Smith, University of Louisville basketball players with inventing the high five. At a University of Louisville Cardinal (the team name) basketball practice during the 1978-79 season, Brown went to give a plain (ordinary) old low five to his teammate. Out of nowhere (suddenly, without warning), Smith looked Brown in the eye and said, “No. Up high.”

The Cardinal players were tall and used their jumping ability to defeat other teams. So “when Smith raised his hand, it clicked (made sense) for Brown,” writes Mooallem. “I thought,” said Brown, “yeah, why are we staying down low? We jump so high.”

So who did invent the high five? I don’t know. And no one else can be sure they know. In both stories it appears (looks like) to have happened spontaneously (without thinking or preparation).

If you’d like to learn how to do the high five properly, here’s a short, funny video about high five etiquette (rules for proper behavior).

*Gimme five = give me five; used when you want someone to give you a high five.

~ Warren Ediger – creator of Successful English, where you’ll find clear explanations and practical suggestions for better English.

Photo by  johnwiechecki used under Creative Commons license.

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29 Responses to Gimme Five!*

  1. Peter says:

    Cool,another sensationalized article
    Dear Warren,
    I have a soft spot for your posts
    They are appealing to me
    I usually go over them several times trying to hold on to the idea
    Don’t get me wrong
    I am not classifying here
    U guys all have grat writing chops. Like Lucy’s cooking chops:))) the other way around ofcourse:)
    The thing is, you own slightly different writing style. You guys all own the language ,but you have their own peculiarities. 🙂
    You guys have your individual writing signature.
    You see what I m getting at here
    All in all, I like they way you express ideas on this very page.I found them sometimes idiosynreric ,yet interesting.
    I have no idea about the origin of the term” high five.” though
    All I know ,it is not just USAly(my coinage :))common; it is a commonly International term .people all over the glob use it
    Interestingly enough, it is called high five all over the map:)
    “high five” is one of those timeless ,borderless terms.
    There is one Question coming to mind though.
    How do you figure that term has surely initiated in U.S.
    It may be originated from England or other common wealth countries for that matter.
    You see what i am saying Warren
    High five is not an exclusive terms
    There is no supporting document in regards to Who coined the term originally.
    It is being used all over

  2. Hamid R says:

    Hi Dr. Jeff and ESL team;
    This topic was a nice one, cus I didn’t know any history about high five. Your topic is always good Dr Jeff. But if you can say our grammerical fasles in our notes, It will be the best. I think many of users here aren’t very well in english. I think high five started with Path and Math, who did crazy works for every work.
    thank you Dr Jeff and ESL team
    Hamid R (Iran)

  3. John says:

    Interesting article Warren, thank you!

  4. elcomandant says:

    Gimme five, Warren! It’s a nice topic. The videos that you’ve linked are funny, too.

    I don’t know who invented this way to greet. However everybody knows that it’s an informal way of shake hands and, of course, we can’t use the high five to greet all people. For instance you can use it to say hello at your school fellow, but you can’t use it with the CEO of a company if you go to ask for a job.

    Speaking of this, I have to tell you one thing happened to me few years ago. I was walking along the streets with a friend of mine who had come to enjoying Las Fallas, the festivity of my city. There was a crowd, as always, and suddenly a fifty-year-old man got approach to my friend and gave a big hug and straight afterwards he greeted her with a high five. It looked to me a very nice greeting.

    My friend told her that he didn’t remember who he was. Then they realised that was a funny mistake. The man apologised and they said bye each other with an a big smile. A few minutes after my friend was aware that her wallet had been stolen, possibly in this funny greeting.

    Fortunately he had few cash in the wallet but he also had all kind of cards, because of that he had to go to the police. The day after the theft my friend was called by the police because your wallet had been handed over at the police station.

    At the end everything turned out not too bad.


  5. Kao Warod says:

    Hi Warren,

    I am Thai, I like to listen ESL Podcast and read your blog so much.
    Just in case, I didn’t actually know it is called ” High Five ” before. There are a lot of people in my country do something like that, slat their hands together when they have done something successful together.
    Someone try to hit hardly to each other ( the sound of slating is quite loud ) , for impressing or for fun , I really don’t know…
    Recently, I took high five with my colleague’s son. I didn’t hit his hand so hard, because he is only 2 years old.
    However, I don’t think we can high five with someone who we aren’t familiar with or they are stranger.

    Thanks ESL Pod

  6. elcomandant says:

    I’m sorry. When I said in my post “her”, I wanted to say “him”. Both were men, my friend and the thief.

  7. emiliano says:

    What about women?
    Do they give their five each other too?

    I think they did playing some sport game but it would be nice to confirm
    the subject.

    Nice topic Warren, thank you.

  8. Tania says:

    Hi! I have not known that this gesture is called the high five and it has and an Official National High Five Day Music. I have just watched the video on YouTube. Thank you.
    I have read and the article mentioned by you. A little difficult for me, with many new words.
    Like Thai, we use this gesture or try to use the high five when we have done something successful together or have agreed the same idea.
    Nice photo!

    Best wishes,


  9. Tania says:

    Hi! I think it is Jeff’s birthday on the 24 th of September.


  10. Myo ko ko says:

    Is that called “high five” ?!
    Suprisingly enough, I did it so many times without knowing how it is called! 🙂
    Now I know it and so now I’m going to thank Warren…. 🙂
    So many thanks, Warren! (Assume that I am saying “thanks” to you to the “times” I did “high fives” in the past and also for the “times” in the future!! 😀 )
    And if anyone of ESL friends here who want to give me “high five,” you are welcomed and “Gimme five.” 😀

  11. mehdi says:

    Really? Happy birthday Dr jeff. I Wish you the best. (mehdi,iran)

  12. Peter says:

    No kidding!
    I had no inkling that your birthday is coming up.
    One year older ,huh?
    Passing age 25:) , birthday-approaching is not really a thrilling news, is it?
    There is nothing herald worthy about it :)(good one)
    To me ,it is more like an alert ,a jolt if you will:)
    However, it is not like we have a chice.
    So ,let’s put a positive spin on it.
    You are one year wiser Jeff.
    Happy birthday!!! bro
    Thank Tania for reminding us of the happy day for us ,but not really for Jeff :
    I wish there were a place where we , your students,could get together and celebrate another milestone in your life.
    I know , you are saying ” what else is new?”
    well,i am aware of the fact that ever day in your life is a triumph ,a millstone if you prefer.
    Still ,a word of recognition makes us feel good about ourselves.
    So , here it goes my man
    Dear Jeff
    It is a given that you have a beautiful mind!
    You have a big heart boss
    You are a true philanthropist!
    You are the spirit, in the Eslpod land.
    You are the best of the best
    God bless you in your 25th birth day!:)
    You will live in our hearts for eternity!

    A huge fan of you and your work,


    From the looks of it,your peak time never ends.
    If you must know ,Mine never started to begin with!

  13. Ana says:

    Hi, I’m from Brazil and here and it is very commom this gesture. We usually say “toca aqui”= “touch here”. I didn’t know it is called “high five” there.
    Thanks and Happy Birthday Dr Jeff!

  14. emiliano says:

    A Nice Happy Birthday dear Jeff., have a good time sharing the feast with all
    your family and friends.
    Sure you are going to have a lot of gifts and the love of thousands of people
    all round the world.

    By Cuca side and me you are receiving in this note all our gratitude and
    our best wishes for the future.

    Thank you dear friend.

  15. Peter says:

    Dear Warren ,
    I just reread the material you posted up on the header.
    Very stimulating.
    The topic you discuss and the terms you adress on your posts are very interesting!
    I like to see more of you here
    I am positive that is the general convencus around here
    Like the mounted story on the post
    Thanks bro

  16. Betty says:

    Thank you very much, Warren, for this interest topic. I have watched the videos and read the article in ESPN The Magazine. The videos are so funny, one can’t help laughing while watching them.

    Emiliano was right, both video only used men to do the ‘high five’,What about women? Do they do ‘high five’ as well?

    I think women do high five as well, but might be not as much as men. Young girls must do a lot of high fives, my daughters force me to do high five with them from time to time.

    If you look at the’s ‘high five’ video clip that Warren introduced to us, the two men co-operated very well, I think it is very healthy if people can practice their high fives like that many time in a day. It improves their flexibility and the action of slapping hands could probably reduce chance of dementia (I just have a feeling that it probably could, no medical evidence).

    Tania is right, the article in the ESPN The Magazine is very difficult to read. It is not just the new words that’s hard for us, the very long story also tests our patience and it is very hard to give it our best attention.

    Thanks again, Warren, nice topic.

    All the best wishes



    Thank you so much, Tania, for reminding us it was Jeff’s birthday yesterday.

    Might be because it was Saturday and so no one worked in the office and so there was no announcement this year.

    Tania is one of the best students in this classroom. She is hard working and she even remembers the teacher’s birthday, amazing!


    Oops, I nearly forgot to say:

    HAPPY BELATED BIRTHDAY, Dear Jeff Dr McQuillan, I hope my memory is better next year and will remember your birthday before Tania reminds us.

    Hope you have had a birthday treat or special birthday present from your wife.

    All the best wishes


  17. Talal says:

    oooooooooh i didnt know its Dr,Jeffs birthday, omg . i came across it reading Emilianos post , i wanna say happy birth day to u , and thank u so much Warren for this Article, i saw the video in youtube,, hahahahaaa, i laughed my a$$ off !!!!

  18. LEE says:

    High Five video is really funny.

  19. Ziba says:

    Thank you Warren for that interesting topic, I had seen the action many times on TV but I didn’t know its name. this action shows really their feeling and excitement.

    Bye the way, I want to tell Dear Jeff, Happy Birth Day with best wishes


  20. Øyvor says:

    To my teacher Jeff

    If it is so..that your birthday was the 24th.. I want to congratulate so much=),
    hoping you and your wife had a great day!

  21. Talal says:

    Dear Betty , how r u ??? I alaways read ur intetesting posts, its good idea to learn from advanced learners like u .
    Take care babe !! Wish u the best !

  22. Betty says:

    Dear Talal

    Thank you for your message, I am very well, thank you.

    I was very happy to see your message on Sunday. I am sure all our friends here are very pleased to see your message again and to know that you are very well.

    Did you have a nice summer holiday? Back to college and studying hard again?

    I am not an advanced learner. On the contrary, I still have a steep mountain to climb to reach satisfactory level.

    About 30 years ago, I met a girl from China who spent about half a year learning English in one of the best universities in England (I forgot which university she went to). She mastered the English language very quickly and brilliantly. Her lecturer was very surprised to see that someone could improve so much in such a short time – from almost no English to almost an expert in English in almost no time! I wish I have her magic power in learning English.

    My children always correct my English, and they always giggle when they hear my wrong English, but I am happy and lucky to have them to correct me. It is like an English game for me.

    Please take care now.

    All the best wishes to you.


  23. Ziba says:

    Hi Betty,

    How are you? Whenever I come here after reading the text (topic) immediately I read your opinion about the text and then other our friends.

    I’m proud of you as a friend. I wish I could write my opinion in English like you. Sometimes I have ideas in my mind but I can’t write them in English.
    Your words help me in some ways. That is I’m the last one here.


  24. John says:

    Dear Jeff, I just read about all the birthday greetings and I’m kinda ashamed that I didn’t know it was your birthday on September 24th 😀

    Please accept my belated but nonetheless sincere birthday wishes!


  25. Sanaz says:

    Thanks Warren for the interesting topic and funny video:) Now I’m ready for the high five!

    By the way, Happy Belated Birthday Jeff. Wish you the best!!

  26. Talal says:

    Thanks ms.Betty once again for ur wonderful story about learning English
    I had fun summer, i went on vacation to several Greek Islands, it was rather an amazing experience !!
    I didnt start college this year yet, cuz it starts at 10-13
    Oh yeah.. i almost forgot, u r an definitely an advanced English learner , u r just being modest 🙂
    Take care u too mam.

  27. Betty says:

    Hi Ziba,

    I am fine, thank you.

    Thank you for your good words. In fact, your English is very good, it is true.

    I enjoy reading your post very much as well. I could not agree more (I agreed totally with you) when I read your message in Lucy’s article about cooking ten days ago.

    You said: “The most important thing to make food delicious is love, when you start cooking with love your food will really taste good. Imagine when you were a child your mom’s cooking was the best in the world, because your mother cooked with love for you”.

    I knew many people who could not cook before they got married. And then they had their own children and they started cooking very tasty and healthy food for their children. Love can change one person.

    I used to study together with many Iranian boys and girls decades ago when I studied in England. I am glad to have the chance to study together with you here online so many years later. We don’t have to be in England to study English, and we have the best English teachers in the world to teach us
    English in our own countries, this is something I did not foresee.

    Practice makes progress. If you insist on writing something in English more often, you will soon find it easier to write down your ideas in English.

    I force myself to write something in English everyday in order that I do not lose this language which is not my first language. It can be very easy for someone to lose a second language.

    All the best wishes to you.


  28. emiliano says:

    I do think the same like Ziba and Betty about cooking.
    Love is the best ingredient in a delicious plate just the thought
    of cooking a nice food for the people we love give us ideas
    and ability to prepare it.
    For the last years I have been cooking for my lover ones without
    any previous practice and at the end I could cook which
    ever food Cuca or the girls may like.
    Even my father, a cooker when he was young, asked me about
    a receipt once he was at home at the beach with Cuca and me.
    It was incredible and I was really pleased.
    Betty you ever are nice and pleasant with every one of us.
    Like a delicious plate your posts are incredible good prepared.
    All of them have love.
    Thank you.

  29. Ziba says:

    Dear Betty,

    Thank you for your kind words, Yes, you are right, so i wiil practice and write more to make my english better till to talk to you fluently.
    And thank you for your kind comment on my word about cooking.

    Best regards,


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