A hat tip, or chapeau as they say in real life France, is a way to give credit where credit is due.
The shortened version, HT, acknowledges a little bit of someone else's genius, and save one whole character over typing "via" or "by".
That's what we'd tell you HT means on Twitter, anyway. According to in the early 20th centuries, a hat tip was "a common non-verbal greeting between friends or acquaintances while walking on a sidewalk or meeting at a social gathering." You know, when people used to wear hats all the time.
Now it's the head nod.
On Twitter, a HT is a new gateway into bylining a Tweet. Instead of taking credit for the Tweet, quote, idea or article, you add HT to your Tweet and suddenly you're absolved from stealing the credit. It's also a nice way to pass around the Twitter karma. You say I'm smart, I'll say you're smart, we'll all be smart together and host a Tweet-up!
There are a few different ways that people give this credit, sometimes barely abbreviated at all:
Tweeters have always used some version of the HT in their Tweets, long before the HT even started getting traction. In order to give credit where credit is due, people used to write Tweets like this (and they still do):
Tonight was the 1st time Mariano Rivera has blown a save without recording an out. Yes, THE FIRST. (via @ESPNStatsInfo )
- @Politics_PR 2m
The Saddest Tweeters Live in Texas http://zite.to/113mvkL via @NatGEO
CorpNet Launches Free Corporate Filing Compliance Service http://sbt.me/17 By @eggmarketing
BREAKING NEWS on @1280sports. Karl Malone has been hired as a Big Man coach by the @utahjazz. Announcement made by @GregInUtah in Studio.
CEO Ben Silbermann Wants Pinterest to Become Your Platform For Discovery -by @MikeIsaac http://dthin.gs/1aAGk8r
Now there's a new way to attach people to the things they've written or shared and that's the noble HT Hat Tip. It can be placed at the beginning of a Tweet, but most of the time you'll find it at the end. Some examples:
This will come in handy! SPAC and LN offer Trolley Service from Saratoga Springs to SPAC for #phish http://bit.ly/16pHLKs HT - @BMpayments
How China's appetite for safe pork fueled Smithfield takeover http://gu.com/p/3g7bm/tw #business HT @leanhog
"How @FWD_us lost NYC, @ElonMusk & the tech moral high ground"-@hamishmckenzie: http://bit.ly/10AD4sG Unsparing. HT @Penenberg
#Twitter analysis shows how 'yelling' attracts followers http://bit.ly/15hMsBc HT @mswaichingliu81
Great list of simple design principles from Google's Android team: http://developer.android.com/design/get-started/principles.html … (ht @jdmoran)
Solar power's massive price drop, in one graph. HT: @cleantechnica pic.twitter.com/kmvYGmkOuR
Joey Votto made out of legos. (HT @MLBFanCave) pic.twitter.com/S7JUcd7oMm
People on Twitter and everywhere like getting a tip of the hat for a job well done. The New York Times and Wall Street Journal shout out people who pass along stories and tips to them on a regular basis. The reason why people do it on Twitter is for a few different reasons. For some, it's a way to put themselves in front of the people they're HT'ing. For other people, it's just a different way of sourcing articles and things they want to share.
Like all things in Twitter jargon, this stuff is completely made up. You don't have to do anything, in fact, nobody will bat an eyelash if you don't.