Where did the handshake come from?


Across the world, the handshake is a well known ritual when hands are grasped and moved in a brief up and down movement.  Using the right hand is considered to be correct etiquette.  Handshaking is most commonly seen in greetings, offering congratulations, expressions of gratitude, making agreements, or the parting of ways.  A handshake conveys trust, respect, equality, and balance.  It can also be the final part of an agreement between parties with any agreement not being final until the two hands are parted.

But when did this ritual begin?  Carvings and ancient text show us that handshaking was practiced in ancient Greece as fat back as the 5th century BC.  The Pergamon Museum in Berlin has a funeral stone from the 5th century BC depicting two soldiers shaking hands.

When it came into everyday practice, nobody knows – it is said that it came into being as a gesture of peace by way of demonstrating that you were not holding a weapon. It is also rumoured that the up and down motion of the handshake was intended to dislodge any weapons that were hiding up a sleeve!  It is also said that the handshake was made popular by the Quakers in the 17th century who thought it a more egalitarian alternative to bowing or tipping a hat.

Across the world many countries have their own customs surrounding the handshake – with the Chinese preferring a weak shake and the English preferring a firm shake.  However, it should also be noted that too firm a grip can also be considered rude!

Whatever the origins, the handshake has become a universal greeting recognised by almost everyone!

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