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'?
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It only takes a minute to sign up.Sign up to join this community
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.
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."
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.
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.