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Huzzah (sometimes written hazzah; originally huzza, and in most modern varieties of English hurrah or hooray) is, according to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), "apparently a mere exclamation". The dictionary does not mention any specific derivation. Whatever its origins, it has seen occasional literary use since at least the time of Shakespeare.
Huzzah may be categorized with such interjections as hoorah and hooray. According to the OED, "In English the form hurrah is literary and dignified; hooray is usual in popular acclamation."
In common usage, such as cheers at sporting events and competitions, the speaker need not make distinction and the words are distinguished by regional dialect and accent. However there are certain circumstances where the huzzah form is preferred; for example, it is customary for rowing crews of Magdalene College, Cambridge to celebrate victories with a chant of "hip hip huzzah". Huzzah is often commonly shouted at Renaissance Festivals.
The origin of the word in its various forms is not clear, but it may have been influenced by war cries from various languages: the OED suggests Danish, Swedish, Dutch, Russian and Prussian words that may have played a part. Jack Weatherford asserts that it comes from the Mongolian Hurree, used by Mongol armies and spread throughout the world during the Mongol Empire of the 13th century, but he does not appear to present any supporting evidence. Weatherford says that in Mongolian Hurree is a sacred praise much like amen or hallelujah.
In the 18th and early 19th centuries, three "huzzahs" were given by British infantry before a bayonet charge, as a way of building morale and intimidating the enemy. The book Redcoat: The British Soldier in the Age of Horse and Musket by Richard Holmes indicates that this was given as two short "huzzahs" followed by a third sustained one as the charge was carried out.
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