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What's the meaning of root in this context?

You root for the favorite. You cry when they go away.

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root for –  Matt Эллен Aug 28 '12 at 11:47
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closed as general reference by Matt Эллен, RegDwigнt Aug 28 '12 at 11:47

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Here, root means to "cheer for".

It was perhaps most famously used in the 1908 song "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" in phrase "Let me root, root, root for the home team. If they don't win it's a shame."

The usage may come from the older English word "rout" that describes a cow bellowing.

Interestingly, the word root has a sexual connotation in Australia.

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Here root is a synonyn for cheer on.

Apparently it was originally U.S. slang, although it has spread since then. The OED gives this sense as:

colloq. (orig. U.S. slang) To cheer for a (baseball, etc.) team. Also transf., to be active for a person or thing by giving support, encouragement, or applause. Also without const.

The first citation is from 1889. Here are some of the later ones:

  • 1951 in M. McLuhan Mech. Bride (1967) 8/1 ― He rooted fiercely for the underdog, perhaps because he was so much the underdog himself.
  • 1959 N. Mailer Advts. for Myself (1961) 400 ― If he dares not to castrate his hatred of society··then I would have to root for him because he may have been born to write a great novel.
  • 1967 Boston Sunday Herald Mag. 9 Apr. 4/3 ― You’ll find it becomes a whole different game from just sitting in your armchair, rooting blindly.
  • 1971 A. Burgess M F xii. 140 ― A popcorn-eating audience roots for two youths fighting a huge engulfing python.
  • 1976 A. Miller Inside Outside vii. 81, ― I··wound up in front of the Visiting Committee with the Governor rooting for me.
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It doesn't necessarily require to actively (expressively) cheer, it also can mean "favor" - you take sides and wish victory to the side you root for. –  SF. Aug 28 '12 at 11:43
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Searching ODO for "root for" yields this:

root for
informal support or hope for the success of (a person or group entering a contest or undertaking a challenge):
   the whole of this club is rooting for him
root someone on
North American informal cheer or spur someone on:
   his mother rooted him on enthusiastically from ringside

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Interesting on the informality. I don’t know that it would occur to me that this is an informal word, nor that it is mainly North American. –  tchrist Aug 28 '12 at 11:50
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