What is a Dap Greeting?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A dap greeting is a series of arranged gestures exchanged between two individuals. Although a dap greeting can be exchanged upon meeting someone, it can also be used to indicate agreement, celebration or fellowship at any time. A dap greeting can include slapping hands, bumping fists in any direction, snapping, wiggling fingers and other forms of contact, and it can last anywhere from a few seconds to more than a minute. Dap greetings originated in the black community and have since spread to other racial groups, with many subcultures and groups of friends developing their own very specific dap greetings.

A dap greeting may include a handshake.
A dap greeting may include a handshake.

Series of Gestures

At its most basic, a dap greeting is simply a ritualized handshake, but it usually includes a series of other gestures, with the gestures being performed in a specific and choreographed order. Many people learn dap greetings when they are very young, by watching and interacting with other people in their communities. Often, such greetings are exchanged almost reflexively, much like businessmen shake hands when meeting each other.

A group of friends may have their own dap greeting.
A group of friends may have their own dap greeting.


This type of greeting typically is non-verbal, and it is exchanged as a gesture of affection and solidarity. Dap greetings are believed to have originated in Africa, where people from different tribes might exchange such greetings upon meeting each other to indicate peaceful and friendly intentions. Blacks who emigrated to other parts of the world — including those forcefully transported as slaves — developed their own dap greetings.

Meaning of "Dap"

Some people believe that “dap” is an acronym for “dignity and pride,” reflecting the adoption of the dap greeting by the black power movement. Others suggest that “dignity and pride” is merely what is sometimes called a "backronym" — an acronym thought up after a word already existed. "Dap" also might be a shortening of another word or an onomatopoeia — a word that imitates the noise produced by this type of greeting; some dap greetings create a sound much like “dap,” which is produced by pulling the slightly cupped hands of the participants against each other.

Sociological Intrigue

Among groups of friends or people in the same community, it is common for a distinctive dap greeting to evolve and for such greetings to be exchanged on a regular basis. From the point of view of sociologists and anthropologists, the use of such greetings is very intriguing. They can indicate solidarity, membership in a specific group and social status, among other things.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


It makes sense that dap greetings began in Africa. There are so many different tribes in Africa, I can believe that they developed dap greetings to show their friendliness and camaraderie when they encountered other tribes. Their music has a definite beat made mostly with drums. Dap greetings, especially those used by blacks, seem to have a rhythm and beat to them.

I wonder what kind of dap greetings the slaves used and if they continued to use them after they were emancipated? Using dap greetings probably really helped the slaves feel strength in being part of a group and to show compassion for each other.


I think the idea of having dap greetings is a great one. I know that in my area, they are especially popular among younger groups of ethnic minorities and their friends. From what a few have told me, they feel they belong when they greet each other with a dap.

Groups of high school and college fiends, and young adults probably have shorter dap greetings.

With the majority of older mainstream people, the hug or pat on the back is still the main mode of greeting.

I enjoy watching young children do some simple dap greetings. They have fun with this.

I think that it would be good for families to greet each other with a dap. If you have teenagers in the house, when they come into the house, they might greet other family members with a "uhm." If a family dap greeting was created, it might bring the family a bit closer together.


I really like the idea of a dap greeting. There is something about the verbal greetings we always use that seems kind of formal and impersonal. We always just say "Hello" or "Hi" or "Whats Up" if you feel informal. But there is nothing fun about this and we just recycle the same greeting over and over.

I really like the idea of having a shake or a slap or something distinct to your friends or your family to use when you say hello. There is so much potential for personalization and customization. And touching skin gives the moment a little bit of intimacy. I will have to convince my friends that we need to come up with a dap greeting.


My friends and I used to love coming up with weird and complicated handshakes to bust out when we would see each other in the halls at high school.

I remember we had one that went on for almost 2 minutes. It took at least 2 weeks for us to all get it down and we still screwed it up all the time. I can still remember a few of the moves but most of it is lost to memory. The coolest part was that we got written up in the school newspaper. We were pretty minor celebrities but at least somebody noticed.


@sinbad - I have heard that it is mostly a western culture thing, but there is a variation (or maybe our areas have a variation of their greeting) called the "Lock and fly".

So you can be prepared to use it in places such as the Caribbean Islands, but you will have to get someone from there to teach it to you - it is not quite a fist bump there is a little more to it!


I had no idea that "dap" had so much meaning. I most often hear it when people say things like "Dap it up." which is a request for a fist bump. And then there is the special funny "daps" my friends and I use as greetings.

Do other languages have a saying that would be equal to our slang of "dap it up"?

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