Well, now I understand that this is so, but the first few times I heard this, I had no idea what 'giving it up' meant.

What is the derivation? How do you get from 'giving it up' to 'clapping'?

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    None of the below are answers. None tell how "Give it up for" means to clap for. All they say is "someone did it," and that's supposed to tell us why almost everyone does it now? I think the statement is stupid, and eveyone who says it sounds like a mindless parrot. – user6393 Mar 22 '11 at 4:44
  • Yes,the answer is very unsatisfactory. I for one, don't understand how it could mean clapping or encouraging. – Senthil Kumaran Sep 1 '11 at 3:05

From PhraseFinder:

Reference 1:

First use ... was by Arsenio Hall, who made it into a bit of a catch phrase on his television show that began in January 1987. There may be earlier usages.

... Arsenio was the first to use the catchphrase in a widely seen television show; but a great many people would have heard him use it before then, ..., about 1980 ..., when he was on tour with Gladys Knight. It simply means "Don't hold anything back," and he showed by gesture that he meant applause.

Reference 2:

Give it up -- let yourself go. Mainstream 1960s. "Flappers 2 Rappers: American Youth Slang" by Tom Dalzell (Merriam-Webster Inc., Springfield, Md., 1996) Flappers 2 Rappers says in mid-1970s it became a Hip-Hop and Rap term meaning "to express greeting, to applaud."

Reference 3:

Marvin Gaye, 1977, Got to Give it Up. Lyrics at http://marvin-gaye.guidechart.com/got-to-give-it-up.php

"giving it up" means "to applaud". "clapping" is a form of applause. Hence, "giving it up" for someone can mean clapping for him / her.

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  • Perhaps explaining why someone came up with the idea of using "give it up" to say "applaud"? – Nick Bedford Mar 22 '11 at 5:01

Quite simply, the 'it' in question is Applause. Audiences who do not applaud are often referred to as 'stingy' or withholding of their applause, so when asked to 'give it up' for a performer, they are being asked to provide their applause - i.e. to clap.

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On the live album "Waiting for Columbus" by Little Feat (recorded August 1977), the emcee begins the record by urging the audience to "give it up for Little Feat."

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The term "give up" originated during the medieval times. When the enemies would approach the castle, the drawbridge needed to be drawn. This required the motion of pulling down on the chains. The fellow knights would shout "don't give up, don't give up" in order to instruct their peers to pull down as much as they could.

The reverse side of this was when they wanted to welcome someone into the castle. In this case, they would yell "give it up". Allowing someone into the castle only occurred when welcoming a warrior, or someone of high status. Therefore give it up came to be a means of celebrating someone.

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    Ingenious, if not very plausible. But if you want to be taken seriously, you need some sort of evidence or authority. – Tim Lymington Jun 13 '12 at 23:00

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