Words of Cheer - To 'Cheer'

“Cheers” originated from the old French word “chiere” which meant “face” or “head.” By the 18th century, it meant “gladness,” and was used as a way of expressing encouragement to someone. In the context of clicking glasses, today we say “Cheers,” as a word to simply imply good wishes to another.  This one word toast serves as a symbolic and succinct way of toasting one person, or even a large group, with the wish of good cheer and good health as an act of camaraderie.

In the context of sport, to cheer would mean to encouraging the athletes in their performance. The act of cheerleading at sporting events dates back to the 1860s, in England, and the trend jumped the Atlantic with immigration to the United States. American college sport events had “cheerleading” by the 1880s. At this time, cheerleading meant the oral leading of chants and cheers from people watching the sporting event. When the crowd would chant in unison, there was an observable energizing affect on the team; athletes were encouraged by the cheers and winning plays ensued. Specifically at Princeton University, in 1884, the crowd’s chanting at football games boosted school spirit so “cheerleaders” would compose catchy cheers to be yelled out at the games.

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Eventually, the cheers and chants yelled out as encouragement, acquired accompanying movements.  My guess is that two arms held up to make a letter ‘V’ is an obvious place to start.  “Give me a ‘V’ for Victory!” 

Will Ferrell’s “Elf” character has good advice, “The best way to spread Christmas cheer, is singing loud for all to hear.” Cheer, cheers, cheerful, cheerleading, cheerleader, cheery and cheerio!



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