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The History of the High Five

 
The high-five is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as a noun describing a gesture of celebration or greeting in which two people slap each other's palms, usu. with their arms extended over their heads and also as a verb meaning to greet a person in this way.
 
The origins of the the term are defined as belonging in sport, specifically US Basketball, and the uses of the phrase as a noun are recorded by the Oxford English Dictionary from 1980 and as a verb from 1981. "They used to slap palms (Gimme five, man), but what they do now is reach high and bang hands up there (The high five, man)"   Maclean's Mag. 20 Oct. 1980
 
"The entire St. Louis bench rose and smothered the player who had scored with highfives and head slaps usually reserved for someone who had homered."
N.Y. Times 17 Sept. 1981
The actual practice of high-fiving is older than this however.  Phrases.org states that the term Began in the basketball circuit in the US in the 1979/80 season. The University of Louisville player Derek Smith claims to have coined the term.
 
An earlier occurrence of the high-five, often regarded as the first use of the gesture in sport is that of the high-five exchanged between Dusty Baker and Glen Burke in 1977.
 
Burke and Baker were both players for the Los Angeles Dodgers, and after Baker scored a home run Burke raised his hand first for Baker to slap in celebration.  Because of this Burke is widely credited with bringing the gesture to sports. The celebration was adopted and popularised by players for the Louisville Cardinals Basketball team in the 1980 season.
 
The high-five consequently rose in popularity throughout the 1980s leading to its inclusion in dictionaries and the popular vernacular. Many instance of the high-five can be seen in films and TV from the 1980s and it remained popular in sport throughout this time also, especially in Baseball and Basketball.
 
Although the act of high fiving was introduced into sport in the late seventies and early eighties, it originated in African-American urban culture as a greeting. ...a contribution of African American urban culture became widely known in sports, especially basketball, as a quick, dramatic substitute for the traditional handshake or 'pat on the butt' in congratulations. The 'high five,' developed from an earlier greeting practice of palm-slapping known as 'slapping five' (often accompanied by the words 'Gimme five' or 'Gimme some skin'), is done with one palm or both palms raised high, and the slap can be quite energetic. It is done by players of all levels, in all sports and regions, as well as by fans, and even in non-sports settings."
"Speaking Freely: A Guided Tour of American English from Plymouth Rock to Silicon Valley" by Stuart Berg Flexner and Anne H. Soukhanov (Oxford University Press, New York, 1997)
 
The energetic nature of the high-five made it a great gesture for the 80s but in the 90s there was a slight high-five backlash as it became regarded as cheesy. In the 21st century the high-five has entered a new era being used in both a post-modern self-deprecating or ironic gesture or in in its purest form as a symbol of celebration and congratulation.