Word Origin & History
early 13c., from Anglo-Norm. chere "the face," from O.Fr. chiere, from L.L. cara "face," from Gk. kara "head," from PIE base *ker- "head." Already by M.E. meaning had extended metaphorically to "mood, demeanor, mental condition" as reflected in the face. Could be in a good or bad sense ("The feend ...
beguiled her with treacherye, and brought her into a dreerye cheere," "Merline," c.1500), but positive sense has predominated since c.1400. Meaning "shout of encouragement" first recorded 1720, perhaps nautical slang (earlier "to encourage by words or deeds," early 15c.). Cheer up (intrans.) first attested 1670s. Cheers as a salute or toast when taking a drink is British, 1919. The old English greeting what cheer was picked up by Algonquian Indians of southern New England from the Puritans and spread in Indian languages as far as Canada.