College cheers arguably began at Princeton. Cheers became a part of the Princeton student's way of life in the middle of the 19th century and were observed on Princeton's campus in 1860 or earlier, though initially not in an athletic context.

The "tiger" (the word itself or a roar) was a common element in early cheers. Its use in the "rocket" cheer (named because the words, hisses and noises were supposed to evoke the sounds of exploding rockets or fireworks) did not refer to the Princeton mascot; the Tiger Mascot came later.

Soon after the first Intercollegiate Football Game in 1869, cheers were extended to athletic events and were used by both the baseball and football teams at home and away games, as well as at practices.

Multiple cheers evolved throughout the latter half of the 19th century, including "The Tiger," "The Rocket," "The Princeton Cheer" and "The Tiger and Rocket," which morphed and intertwined over time, including:

Rah! Rah! Rah! S-s-s-t! Boom! A-h-h-h!
Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah! Tiger! S-s-s-t! Boom! A-h-h-h!
Hooray, hooray, hooray! Tiger siss-boom-ah, Princeton!

Thomas Peebles, Class of 1882, who was familiar with these cheers, moved to Minnesota in 1884 and transplanted the idea of organized crowds cheering at football games to the University of Minnesota — which is therefore credited as having started "organized cheerleading" on November 2, 1898.

However, the term "cheer-leader" was used at Princeton as early as October 26, 1897, with cheerleaders Thomas, Class of 1898, Easton, Class of 1898, and Guerin, Class of 1899, cheering for the teams at games and football practices. Special cheering sections were designated in the stands for both home and visiting teams, much as bands were later to have special sections. It had become such common practice that in 1894 the editors of the Daily Princetonian excoriated those "freshmen sitting in the grand stand and utterly refusing to aid their team by cheering, or any other way to gain a victory."

Today, the Princeton Cheer is called the "Locomotive," a usage dating back to before 1894, and is given as:

Rah rah rah
Tiger, tiger, tiger
Sis, sis, sis,
Boom, boom, boom, ah!
Princeton! Princeton! Princeton!

In variations, "Princeton" is replaced by the name of a class or individual being honored, often followed by clapping, cheers or hooting.

In another cheer used in the first half of the 1900s, first Nassau and then Tiger were spelled out three times, followed by "fight, team, fight." Still another, the "short" cheer, was used principally to honor individuals: "R-r-r-ay, Lourie."