It is usually witnessed that whenever someone respectable (parents), of a higher status (king/president) or an elderly approaches e.g. enters the room, people tend to stand-up as a sign of respect.

What is the origin/history of this act of paying respect?

  • 1
    I have read it reported by ethologists that dominant primates tend to maintain a relaxed demeanor, in particular staying sited, while dominated ones stay alert and tensed. So that practice may be more biological than historical or sociological.
    – Olivier
    Jan 19, 2014 at 14:54
  • On a partly related note a recent obituary stated that Ariel Sharon "would stand, unfailingly courteous, when a woman entered the room". I guess here the cultural origin has to do with conveying willingness to be of service to an approaching (in this case female) person.
    – Drux
    Jan 20, 2014 at 16:08
  • another factor might be displaying yourself to be unarmed. Similar reason as hand shakes being generally using the right hand, the hand that would otherwise be the sword hand. Thus a sign of trust, disarming yourself for the other person.
    – jwenting
    Jan 22, 2014 at 4:46

1 Answer 1


I found two Judeo-Christian sources that suggest the tradition predates the modern codification of the Old Testament.

Last week, we discussed the disagreement quoted in the gemara on 32b regarding the type of zaken (lit., old person) whom one is required to honor. The tanna kamma (first authority [cited]) maintained that honor must be accorded someone only if they are both old and wise. Rabbi Yosei the Galilean argued that even a young scholar is deserving of honor. Isi ben Yehuda ruled that even an old person who has not acquired wisdom should be honored. Lesson on the Talmud


Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honour the face of the old man, and fear thy God: I am the LORD. Leviticus 19:32 King James version

Alas, I can't trace it back any further than that.

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    The 1st quote cannot possibly be from Torah: debates like these, as well as terms such as "rabbi" and "scholar", didn't appear before Talmud, which was written many centuries later.
    – Michael
    Jan 19, 2014 at 20:07
  • Thank you - I don't know what I was thinking. Senior moment.
    – MCW
    Jan 19, 2014 at 22:03
  • 1
    In that case, I hope Michael was standing when he typed that comment. ;-)
    – T.E.D.
    Jan 22, 2014 at 21:33

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