A kiss is the touch or pressing of one's lips against another person
or an object. Cultural connotations of kissing vary widely. Depending
on the culture and context, a kiss can express sentiments of love,
passion, romance, sexual attraction, sexual activity, sexual arousal,
affection, respect, greeting, friendship, peace, and good luck, among
many others. In some situations, a kiss is a ritual, formal or
symbolic gesture indicating devotion, respect, or sacrament. The word
cyssan ("to kiss"), in turn from coss ("a
2.1 Expression of affection
Kiss on the lips
2.3 Romantic kiss
Kiss as ritual
Kiss of peace
Kiss of respect
Kiss of friendship
4 Cultural significance
4.1 South Asia
4.2 West Asia
4.3 East Asia
5 Contemporary practices
5.1 Kissing in films
5.2 Non-sexual kisses
6 Legality of public kissing
7 In religion
8 Biology and evolution
8.2 Health benefits
8.3 Disease transmission
9 See also
11 Further reading
12 External links
Romeo and Juliet
Romeo and Juliet in a painting by Sir Frank Dicksee.
Jean-Honoré Fragonard The Stolen Kiss
Anthropologists are divided into two schools on the origins of
kissing, one believing that it is instinctual and intuitive and the
other that it evolved from what is known as kiss feeding, a process
used by mothers to feed their infants by passing chewed food to their
babies' mouths. Cesare Lombroso, Italian criminologist, physician
and founder of the Italian School of Positivist Criminology, supported
The earliest reference to kissing-like behavior comes from the Vedas,
Sanskrit scriptures that informed Hinduism,
Buddhism and Jainism,
around 3,500 years ago, according to Vaughn Bryant, an anthropologist
at Texas A&M University who specializes in the history of the
Both lip and tongue kissing are mentioned in Sumerian poetry:
My lips are too small, they know not to kiss.
My precious sweet, lying by my heart,
one by one "tonguemaking," one by one.
When my sweet precious, my heart, had lain down too,
each of them in turn kissing with the tongue, each in turn.
Kissing is described in the surviving ancient Egyptian love poetry
from the New Kingdom, found on papyri excavated at Deir el-Medina:
Finally I will drink life from your lips
and wake up from this ever lasting sleep.
The wisdom of the earth in a kiss
and everything else in your eyes.
I kiss her before everyone
that they all may see my love.
And when her lips are pressed to mine
I am made drunk and need not wine.
When we kiss, and her warm lips half open,
I fly cloud-high without beer!
His kisses on my lips, my breast, my hair...
...Come! Come! Come! And kiss me when I die,
For life, compelling life, is in thy breath;
And at that kiss, though in the tomb I lie,
I will arise and break the bands of Death.
The earliest reference to kissing in the
Old Testament is in Genesis
Jacob deceives his father to obtain his blessing:
And his father
Isaac said unto him, Come near now, and kiss me, my
Genesis 29:11 features the first man-woman kiss in the Bible, when
Jacob flees from
Esau and goes to the house of his uncle Laban:
Jacob kissed Rachel, and lifted up his voice, and wept.
Much later, there is the oft-quoted verse from the Song of Songs:
May he kiss me with the kisses of his mouth,
for your love is better than wine.
Cyropaedia (370 BC),
Xenophon wrote about the Persian custom of
kissing in the lips upon departure while narrating the departure of
Cyrus the Great
Cyrus the Great (c. 600 BC) as a boy from his Median kinsmen.
Herodotus (5th century BC), when two Persians meet, the
greeting formula expresses their equal or inequal status. They do not
speak; rather, equals kiss each other on the mouth, and in the case
where one is a little inferior to the other, the kiss is given on the
During the later Classical period, affectionate mouth-to-mouth kissing
was first described in the Hindu epic the Mahabharata.
Academics who have studied it say kissing spread slowly to other parts
of the world after
Alexander the Great
Alexander the Great and his army conquered parts of
Punjab in northern
India in 326 BC.
Romans helped to spread the habit to most of
Europe and North
Romans were passionate about kissing and talked about
several types of kissing. Kissing the hand or cheek was called an
osculum. Kissing on the lips with mouth closed was called a basium,
which was used between relatives. A kiss of passion was called a
Kissing was not always an indication of eros, or love, but also could
show respect and rank as it was used in Medieval Europe.
The study of kissing started sometime in the nineteenth century and is
called philematology, which has been studied by people including
Cesare Lombroso, Ernest Crawley, Charles Darwin, Edward Burnett Tylor
and modern scholars such as Elaine Hatfield.
A Little Coaxing
A painting by
William Bouguereau (1890).
Psyche Revived by Cupid's Kiss
Psyche Revived by Cupid's Kiss by Antonio Canova
Kristoffer Nyrop identified a number of types of kisses, including
kisses of love, affection, peace, respect and friendship. He notes,
however, that the categories are somewhat contrived and overlapping,
and some cultures have more kinds, including the French with twenty
and the Germans with thirty.
Expression of affection
Kissing another person's lips has become a common expression of
affection or warm greeting in many cultures worldwide. Yet in certain
cultures, kissing was introduced only through European settlement,
before which it was not a routine occurrence. Such cultures include
certain indigenous peoples of Australia, the Tahitians, and many
tribes in Africa.
A kiss can also be used to express feelings without an erotic element
but can be nonetheless "far deeper and more lasting", writes Nyrop. He
adds that such kisses can be expressive of love "in the widest and
most comprehensive meaning of the word, bringing a message of loyal
affection, gratitude, compassion, sympathy, intense joy, and profound
Nyrop writes that the most common example is the "intense feeling
which knits parents to their offspring", but he adds that kisses of
affection are not only common between parents and children, but also
between other members of the same family, which can include those
outside the immediate family circle, "everywhere where deep affection
unites people.":82 The tradition is written of in the Bible, as
Orpah kissed her mother-in-law and when
Moses went to meet his
father-in-law, he "did obeisance, and kissed him; and they asked each
other of their welfare; and they came into the tent" (Exodus 18:7);
Jacob had wrestled with the Lord he met Esau, ran towards
him, fell on his neck and kissed him. The family kiss was traditional
Romans and kisses of affection are often mentioned by the
early Greeks, as when Odysseus, on reaching his home, meets his
Affection can be a cause of kissing "in all ages in grave and solemn
moments," notes Nyrop, "not only among those who love each other, but
also as an expression of profound gratitude. When the Apostle Paul
took leave of the elders of the congregation at Ephesus, "they all
wept sore, and fell on Paul's neck and kissed him" (Acts 20:37).
Kisses can also be exchanged between total strangers, as when there is
a profound sympathy with or the warmest interest in another
Folk poetry has been the source of affectionate kisses where they
sometimes played an important part, as when they had the power to cast
off spells or to break bonds of witchcraft and sorcery, often
restoring a man to his original shape. Nyrop notes the poetical
stories of the "redeeming power of the kiss are to be found in the
literature of many countries, especially, for example, in the Old
French Arthurian romances (Lancelot, Guiglain, Tirant le blanc) in
which the princess is changed by evil arts into a dreadful dragon, and
can only resume her human shape in the case of a knight being brave
enough to kiss her." In the reverse situation, in the tale of "Beauty
and the Beast", a transformed prince then told the girl that he had
been bewitched by a wicked fairy, and could not be recreated into a
man unless a maid fell in love with him and kissed him, despite his
A kiss of affection can also take place after death. In Genesis, it is
written that when
Jacob was dead, "Joseph fell upon his father's face
and wept upon him and kissed him." And it is told of Abu Bakr,
Muhammad's first disciple, father-in-law, and successor, that, when
the prophet was dead, he went into the latter's tent, uncovered his
face, and kissed him. Nyrop writes that "the kiss is the last tender
proof of love bestowed on one we have loved, and was believed, in
ancient times, to follow mankind to the nether world.":97
Kissing on the lips can be a physical expression of affection or love
between two people in which the sensations of touch, taste, and smell
are involved. According to the psychologist Menachem Brayer,
although many "mammals, birds, and insects exchange caresses" which
appear to be kisses of affection, they are not kisses in the human
Surveys indicate that kissing is the second most common form of
physical intimacy among United States adolescents (after holding
hands), and that about 85% of 15 to 16-year-old adolescents in the US
have experienced it.
Kiss on the lips
The kiss on the lips can be performed between two friends or family.
This move aims to express affection for a friend. Unlike kissing for
love, a friendly kiss has no sexual connotation. The kiss on the lips
is a practice that can be found in the time of Patriarchs (Bible).
In Ancient Greece, the kiss on the mouth was used to express a concept
of equality between people of the same rank. In the Middle Ages,
the kiss of peace was recommended by the Catholic Church. The kiss
on the lips was also common among knights. The gesture has again
become popular with young people, particularly in England.
A romantic kiss
In many cultures, it is considered a harmless custom for teenagers to
kiss on a date or to engage in kissing games with friends. These games
serve as icebreakers at parties and may be some participants' first
exposure to sexuality. There are many such games, including Truth or
Seven Minutes in Heaven (or the variation "Two Minutes in the
Closet"), Spin the Bottle, Post Office, and Wink.
The psychologist William Cane notes that kissing in Western society is
often a romantic act and describes a few of its attributes:
It's not hard to tell when two people are in love. Maybe they're
trying to hide it from the world, still they cannot conceal their
inner excitement. Men will give themselves away by a certain excited
trembling in the muscles of the lower jaw upon seeing their beloved.
Women will often turn pale immediately of seeing their lover and then
get slightly red in the face as their sweetheart draws near. This is
the effect of physical closeness upon two people who are in
Romantic kissing in Western cultures is a fairly recent development
and is rarely mentioned even in ancient Greek literature. In the
Middle Ages it became a social gesture and was considered a sign of
refinement of the upper classes.:150–151 Other cultures have
different definitions and uses of kissing, notes Brayer. In China, for
example, a similar expression of affection consists of rubbing one's
nose against the cheek of another person. In other Eastern cultures
kissing is not common. In South East Asian countries the "sniff kiss"
is the most common form of affection and Western mouth to mouth
kissing is often reserved for sexual foreplay. In some tribal cultures
the "equivalent for our 'kiss me' is 'smell me.'"
The Kiss, a painting by Francesco Hayez
The kiss can be an important expression of love and erotic emotions.
In his book The
Kiss and its History, Kristoffer Nyrop describes the
kiss of love as an "exultant message of the longing of love, love
eternally young, the burning prayer of hot desire, which is born on
the lovers' lips, and 'rises,' as Charles Fuster has said, 'up to the
blue sky from the green plains,' like a tender, trembling
thank-offering." Nyrop adds that the love kiss, "rich in promise,
bestows an intoxicating feeling of infinite happiness, courage, and
youth, and therefore surpasses all other earthly joys in
sublimity.":30 He also compares it to achievements in life: "Thus
even the highest work of art, yet, the loftiest reputation, is nothing
in comparison with the passionate kiss of a woman one loves.":31
The power of a kiss is not minimized when he writes that "we all yearn
for kisses and we all seek them; it is idle to struggle against this
passion. No one can evade the omnipotence of the kiss ..." Kissing, he
implies, can lead one to maturity: "It is through kisses that a
knowledge of life and happiness first comes to us. Runeberg says that
the angels rejoice over the first kiss exchanged by lovers," and can
keep one feeling young: "It carries life with it; it even bestows the
gift of eternal youth." The importance of the lover's kiss can also be
significant, he notes: "In the case of lovers a kiss is everything;
that is the reason why a man stakes his all for a kiss," and "man
craves for it as his noblest reward.":37
As a result, kissing as an expression of love is contained in much of
literature, old and new. Nyrop gives a vivid example in the classic
love story of Daphnis and Chloe. As a reward "Chloe has bestowed a
kiss on Daphnis—an innocent young-maid's kiss, but it has on him the
effect of an electrical shock"::47
Ye gods, what are my feelings. Her lips are softer than the rose's
leaf, her mouth is sweet as honey, and her kiss inflicts on me more
pain than a bee's sting. I have often kissed my kids, I have often
kissed my lambs, but never have I known aught like this. My pulse is
beating fast, my heart throbs, it is as if I were about to suffocate,
yet, nevertheless, I want to have another kiss. Strange,
never-suspected pain! Has Chloe, I wonder, drunk some poisonous
draught ere she kissed me? How comes it that she herself has not died
Romantic kissing "requires more than simple proximity," notes Cane. It
also needs "some degree of intimacy or privacy, ... which is why
you'll see lovers stepping to the side of a busy street or
Wilhelm Reich "lashed out at society" for
not giving young lovers enough privacy and making it difficult to be
alone. However, Cane describes how many lovers manage to attain
romantic privacy despite being in a public setting, as they "lock
their minds together" and thereby create an invisible sense of
"psychological privacy." He adds, "In this way they can kiss in public
even in a crowded plaza and keep it romantic.":10 Nonetheless,
when Cane asked people to describe the most romantic places they ever
kissed, "their answers almost always referred to this
ends-of-the-earth isolation, ... they mentioned an apple orchard, a
beach, out in a field looking at the stars, or at a pond in a secluded
Kiss as ritual
Kiss on the crucifix in Christianity
Denis Thatcher, husband of Margaret Thatcher, kissing the hand of
Nancy Reagan wife of US President in 1988
Kissing the Blarney Stone
Throughout history, a kiss has been a ritual, formal, symbolic or
social gesture indicating devotion, respect or greeting. It appears as
a ritual or symbol of religious devotion. For example, in the case of
kissing a temple floor, or a religious book or icon. Besides devotion,
a kiss has also indicated subordination or, nowadays, respect.
In modern times the practice continues, as in the case of a bride and
groom kissing at the conclusion of a wedding ceremony or national
leaders kissing each other in greeting, and in many other situations.
A kiss in a religious context is common. In earlier periods of
Islam kissing became a ritual gesture, and is still
treated as such in certain customs, as when "kissing... relics, or a
bishop's ring." In Judaism, the kissing of prayer books such as
the Torah, along with kissing prayer shawls, is also common.
Crawley notes that it was "very significant of the affectionate
element in religion" to give so important a part to the kiss as part
of its ritual. In the early Church the baptized were kissed by the
celebrant after the ceremony, and its use was even extended as a
salute to saints and religious heroes, with Crawley adding, "Thus
Joseph kissed Jacob, and his disciples kissed Paul. Joseph kissed his
dead father, and the custom was retained in our civilization", as the
farewell kiss on dead relatives, although certain sects prohibit this
A distinctive element in the Christian liturgy was noted by Justin in
the 2nd century, now referred to as the "kiss of peace," and once part
of the rite in the primitive Mass. Conybeare has stated that this act
originated within the ancient Hebrew synagogue, and Philo, the ancient
Jewish philosopher called it a "kiss of harmony", where, as Crawley
explains, "the Word of God brings hostile things together in concord
and the kiss of love.":128 Saint Cyril also writes, "this kiss is
the sign that our souls are united, and that we banish all remembrance
Kiss of peace
Nyrop notes that the kiss of peace was used as an expression of deep,
spiritual devotion in the early Christian Church. Christ said, for
Peace be with you, my peace I give you," and the members of
Christ's Church gave each other peace symbolically through a kiss. St
Paul repeatedly speaks of the "holy kiss," and, in his
Epistle to the
Romans, writes: "Salute one another with an holy kiss" and his first
Epistle to the Thessalonians (
1 Thessalonians 5:26), he says: "Greet
all the brethren with an holy kiss.":101
The kiss of peace was also used in secular festivities. During the
Middle Ages, for example, Nyrop points out that it was the custom to
"seal the reconciliation and pacification of enemies by a kiss." Even
knights gave each other the kiss of peace before proceeding to the
combat, and forgave one another all real or imaginary wrongs. The holy
kiss was also found in the ritual of the Church on solemn occasions,
such as baptism, marriage, confession, ordination, or obsequies.
However, toward the end of the
Middle Ages the kiss of peace
disappears as the official token of reconciliation.:109
Kiss of respect
Man kissing the ground after a long sea voyage (as part of a
reenactment of the first landing of English settlers in Virginia in
The kiss of respect is of ancient origin, notes Nyrop. He writes that
"from the remotest times we find it applied to all that is holy,
noble, and worshipful—to the gods, their statues, temples, and
altars, as well as to kings and emperors; out of reverence, people
even kissed the ground, and both sun and moon were greeted with
He notes some examples, as "when the prophet
Hosea laments over the
idolatry of the children of Israel, he says that they make molten
images of calves and kiss them." In classical times similar homage was
often paid to the gods, and people were known to kiss the hands,
knees, feet, and the mouths, of their idols.
Cicero writes that the
lips and beard of the famous statue of
worn away by the kisses of devotees.:115
People kissed the Cross with the image of the Crucified, and such
kissing of the Cross is always considered a holy act. In many
countries it is required, on taking an oath, as the highest assertion
that the witness would be speaking the truth. Nyrop notes that "as a
last act of charity, the image of the Redeemer is handed to the dying
or death-condemned to be kissed." Kissing the Cross brings blessing
and happiness; people kiss the image of Our Lady and the pictures and
statues of saints—not only their pictures, "but even their relics
are kissed," notes Nyrop. "They make both soul and body whole." There
are legends innumerable of sick people regaining their health by
kissing relics, he points out.:121
The kiss of respect has also represented a mark of fealty, humility
and reverence. Its use in ancient times was widespread, and Nyrop
gives examples: "people threw themselves down on the ground before
their rulers, kissed their footprints, literally 'licked the dust,' as
it is termed.":124 "Nearly everywhere, wheresoever an inferior
meets a superior, we observe the kiss of respect. The Roman slaves
kissed the hands of their masters; pupils and soldiers those of their
teachers and captains respectively.":124 People also kissed the
earth for joy on returning to their native land after a lengthened
absence, as when
Agamemnon returned from the Trojan War.
Kiss of friendship
The kiss is also commonly used in American and European culture as a
salutation between friends or acquaintances. The friendly kiss until
recent times usually occurred only between ladies, but today it is
also common between men and women, especially if there is a great
difference in age. According to Nyrop, up until the 20th century, "it
seldom or never takes place between men, with the exception, however,
of royal personages," although he notes that in former times the
"friendly kiss was very common with us between man and man as well as
between persons of opposite sexes." In guilds, for example, it was
customary for the members to greet each other "with hearty handshakes
and smacking kisses," and, on the conclusion of a meal, people thanked
and kissed both their hosts and hostesses.:142
Approximately ten percent of the world do not kiss for a variety of
reasons, including that they find it dirty or for superstitious
reasons. For example, in parts of
Sudan it is believed that the mouth
is the portal to the soul, so they do not want to invite death or have
their spirit taken. Psychology professor
Elaine Hatfield noted that
"kissing was far from universal and even seen as improper by many
societies." Despite kissing being widespread, in some parts of the
world it still is taboo to kiss publicly and is often banned in films
or in other media.
On-screen lip-kissing was not a regular occurrence in
the 1990s, although it has been present from the time of the inception
of Bollywood. This can appear contradictory since the culture of
kissing is believed to have originated and spread from India.
There are also taboos about whom one can kiss in some Muslim-majority
societies governed by religious law. In Iran, a man who kisses or
touches a woman who is not his wife or relative can be punished.
Donald Richie comments that in Japan, as in China, although kissing
took place in erotic situations, in public "the kiss was invisible",
and the "touching of the lips never became the culturally encoded
action it has for so long been in
Europe and America." The early
Edison film, The Widow Jones – the May Irwin-John Rice Kiss
(1886), created a sensation when it was shown in Tokyo, and people
crowded to view the enormity. Likewise, Rodin's sculpture The
not displayed in Japan until after the Pacific War. Also, in the
1900s, Manchu tribes along the
Amur River regarded public kissing with
revulsion. In a similar situation in Chinese tradition, when
Chinese men saw Western women kissing men in public, they thought the
women were prostitutes.
Princess Madeleine of Sweden and
Christopher O'Neill kiss each other
post their wedding, 2013
In modern Western culture, kissing on the lips is commonly an
expression of affection or a warm greeting. When lips are pressed
together for an extended period, usually accompanied with an embrace,
it is an expression of romantic and sexual desire. The practice of
kissing with an open mouth, to allow the other to suck their lips or
move their tongue into their mouth, is called French kissing. "Making
out" is often an adolescent's first experience of their sexuality and
games which involve kissing, such as Spin the Bottle, facilitate the
experience. People may kiss children on the forehead to comfort them
or the cheek or lips to show affection.
In modern Eastern culture, the etiquette vary depending on the region.
In West Asia, kissing on the lips between both men and women is a
common form of greeting. In South and Eastern Asia, it might often be
a greeting between women, however, between men, it is unusual. Kissing
a baby on the cheeks is a common form of affection. Most kisses
between men and women are on the cheeks and not on the lips unless
they are romantically involved. And sexual forms of kissing between
lovers encompass the whole range of global practices.
Kissing in films
The first romantic kiss on screen was in American silent films in
1896, beginning with the film The Kiss. The kiss lasted 30 seconds and
caused many to rail against decadence in the new medium of silent
Louis Black writes that "it was the United States that
brought kissing out of the Dark Ages." However, it met with severe
disapproval by defenders of public morality, especially in New York.
One critic proclaimed that "it is absolutely disgusting. Such things
call for police interference."
Rock Hudson and
Julie Andrews kissing in film
Darling Lilli (1968)
Young moviegoers began emulating romantic stars on the screen, such as
Ronald Colman and Rudolph Valentino, the latter known for ending his
passionate scenes with a kiss. Valentino also began his romantic
scenes with women by kissing her hand, traveling up her arm, and then
kissing her on the back of her neck. Female actresses were often
turned into stars based on their screen portrayals of passion.
Actresses like Nazimova, Pola Negri,
Vilma Bánky and Greta Garbo,
became screen idols as a result.
Eventually the film industry was forced by law to follow the dictates
Production Code established in 1934, overseen by Will Hays and
supported by the church. According to the new code, "Excessive and
lustful kissing, lustful embraces, suggestive postures and gestures,
are not to be shown." As a result, kissing scenes were shortened,
with scenes cut away, leaving the imagination of the viewer to take
over. Under the code, actors kissing had to keep their feet on the
ground and had to be either standing or sitting.
The heyday of romantic kissing on the screen took place in the early
sound era, during the
Golden Age of Hollywood in the 1930s and
1940s.:watch Body language began to be used to supplement romantic
scenes, especially with the eyes, a talent that added to Greta Garbo's
fame. Author Lana Citron writes that "men were perceived as the
kissers and women the receivers. Should the roles ever be reversed,
women were regarded as vamps . . ." According to Citron, Mae West
Anna May Wong
Anna May Wong were the only Hollywood actresses never to have been
kissed on screen. Among the films rated for having the most
romantic kisses are Gone with the Wind, From Here to Eternity,
Casablanca, and To Have and Have Not.
Sociologist Eva Illouz notes that surveys taken in 1935 showed that
"love was the most important theme represented in movies. Similar
surveys during the 1930s found the 95% of films had romance as one of
their plot lines, what film critics called "the romantic formula."
In early Japanese films, kissing and sexual expression were
controversial. In 1931, a director slipped a kissing scene past the
censor (who was a friend), but when the film opened in a downtown
Tokyo theater, the screening was stopped and the film confiscated.
During the American Occupation of Japan, in 1946, an American censor
required a film to include a kissing scene. One scholar says that the
censor suggested "we believe that even Japanese do something like
kissing when they love each other. Why don't you include that in your
films?" Americans encouraged such scenes to force the Japanese to
express publicly actions, feelings that had been considered strictly
private. Since Pearl Harbor, Americans had felt that the Japanese were
"sneaky", claiming that "if Japanese kissed in private, they should do
it in public too."
People kissing in this sketch by reporter and artist Marguerite Martyn
New Year's Eve
New Year's Eve celebration in 1914
In some Western cultures it is considered good luck to kiss someone on
Christmas or on New Year's Eve, especially beneath a sprig of
mistletoe. Newlyweds usually kiss at the end of a wedding ceremony.
Female friends and relations and close acquaintances commonly offer
reciprocal kisses on the cheek as a greeting or farewell. Where
cheek kissing is used, in some countries a single kiss is the custom,
while in others a kiss on each cheek is the norm, or even three or
four kisses on alternating cheeks. In the United States, an air kiss
is becoming more common. This involves kissing in the air near the
cheek, with the cheeks touching or not. After a first date, it is
common for the couple to give each other a quick kiss on the cheek (or
lips where that is the norm) on parting, to indicate that a good time
was had and perhaps to indicate an interest in another meeting.
A symbolic kiss is frequent in Western cultures. A kiss can be "blown"
to another by kissing the fingertips and then blowing the fingertips,
pointing them in the direction of the recipient. This is used to
convey affection, usually when parting or when the partners are
physically distant but can view each other. Blown kisses are also used
when a person wishes to convey affection to a large crowd or audience.
The term flying kiss is used in
India to describe a blown kiss. In
written correspondence a kiss has been represented by the letter "X"
since at least 1763. A stage or screen kiss may be performed by
actually kissing, or faked by using the thumbs as a barrier for the
lips and turning so the audience is unable to fully see the act.
Some literature suggests that a significant percentage of humanity
does not kiss. It has been claimed that in Sub-Saharan African,
Asiatic, Polynesian and possibly in some Native American cultures,
kissing was relatively unimportant until European
colonization. Historically however, the culture of kissing is
thought to have begun and spread from the Eastern World, specifically
With the Andamanese, kissing was only used as a sign of affection
towards children and had no sexual undertones.
In traditional Islamic cultures kissing is not permitted between a man
and woman who are not married or closely related by blood or marriage.
A kiss on the cheek is a very common form of greeting among members of
the same sex in most Islamic countries, much like the south European
Legality of public kissing
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (March
In 2007, two people were fined and jailed for a month after kissing
and hugging in public in Dubai. In 2008, Singapore's Media
Development Authority fined cable firm
StarHub after it broadcast an
advertisement showing two women kissing.
In India, public display of affection is a criminal offense under
Section 294 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 with a punishment of
imprisonment of up to three months, or a fine, or both. This law was
used by police and lower courts to harass and prosecute couples
engaging in intimate acts, such as kissing in public. However,
in a number of landmark cases, the higher courts dismissed assertions
that kissing in public is obscene.
The Taking of Christ by Caravaggio depicts Judas betraying
a kiss as a signal to arrest Jesus.
Kissing was a custom during the Biblical period mentioned in the
Genesis 27:26, when
Isaac kissed his son Jacob.:585 The kiss is
used in numerous other contexts in the Bible: the kiss of homage, in
Esther 5:2; of subjection, in 1
Samuel 10:1; of reconciliation, in 2
Samuel 14:33; of valediction, in Ruth 1:14; of approbation, in Psalms
2:12; of humble gratitude, in Luke 7:38; of welcome, in Exodus 18:7;
of love and joy, in Genesis 20:11. There are also spiritual kisses, as
Canticles 1:2; sensual kisses, as in Proverbs 7:13; and
hypocritical kisses, as in 2
Samuel 15:5. It was customary to kiss the
mouth in biblical times, and also the beard, which is still practiced
in Arab culture. Kissing the hand is not biblical, according to
Tabor. The kiss of peace was an apostolic custom, and continues to
be one of the rites in the Eucharistic services of Roman
Roman Catholic Order of Mass, the bishop or priest celebrant
bows and kisses the altar, reverencing it, upon arriving at the altar
during the entrance procession before Mass and upon leaving at the
recessional at the closing of Mass; if a deacon is assisting, he bows
low before the altar but does not kiss it.
Among primitive cultures it was usual to throw kisses to the sun and
to the moon, as well as to the images of the gods. Kissing the hand is
first heard of among the Persians. According to Tabor, the kiss of
homage—the character of which is not indicated in the Bible—was
probably upon the forehead, and was expressive of high respect.
This woodcut of the practice of kissing the Pope's toe is from
Passionary of the Christ and Antichrist by Lucas Cranach the Elder.
In Ancient Rome and some modern Pagan beliefs, worshipers, when
passing the statue or image of a god or goddess, will kiss their hand
and wave it towards the deity (adoration).
The holy kiss or kiss of peace is a traditional part of most Christian
liturgies, though often replaced with an embrace or handshake today in
In the gospels of Matthew and Mark (Luke and John omit this) Judas
Jesus with a kiss: an instance of a kiss tainted with
betrayal. This is the basis of the term "the kiss of Judas".
Catholics will kiss rosary beads as a part of prayer, or kiss their
hand after making the sign of the cross. It is also common to kiss the
wounds on a crucifix, or any other image of Christ's Passion.
Pope John Paul II
Pope John Paul II would kiss the ground on arrival in a new country.
Visitors to the Pope traditionally kiss his foot.
Catholics traditionally kiss the ring of a cardinal or bishop.
Catholics traditionally kiss the hand of a priest.
Eastern Orthodox and
Eastern Catholic Christians often kiss the icons
around the church on entering; they will also kiss the cross and/or
the priest's hand in certain other customs in the Church, such as
confession or receiving a blessing.
Hindus sometimes kiss the floor of a temple.
Local lore in
Ireland suggests that kissing the
Blarney Stone will
bring the gift of the gab.
Jews will kiss the Western wall of the Holy
Temple in Jerusalem, and
other religious articles during prayer such as the Torah, usually by
touching their hand, Tallis, or
Siddur (prayerbook) to the
then kissing it. Jewish law prohibits kissing members of the opposite
sex, except for spouses and certain close relatives. See Negiah.
Muslims may kiss the
Black Stone during
Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca).
Biology and evolution
Black-tailed prairie dogs "kissing." Prairie dogs use a nuzzle of this
variety to greet their relatives.
Within the natural world of animals there are numerous analogies to
kissing, notes Crawley, such as "the billing of birds, the
cataglottism of pigeons and the antennal play of some insects." Even
among higher animals such as the dog, cat and bear, similar behavior
Anthropologists have not reached a conclusion as to whether kissing is
learned or a behavior from instinct. It may be related to grooming
behavior also seen between other animals, or arising as a result of
mothers premasticating food for their children. Non-human primates
also exhibit kissing behavior. Dogs, cats, birds and other animals
display licking, nuzzling, and grooming behavior among themselves, and
also towards humans or other species. This is sometimes interpreted by
observers as a type of kissing.
Kissing in humans is postulated to have evolved from the direct
mouth-to-mouth regurgitation of food (kiss-feeding) from parent to
offspring or male to female (courtship feeding) and has been observed
in numerous mammals. The similarity in the methods between
kiss-feeding and deep human kisses (e.g. French kiss) are quite
pronounced; in the former, the tongue is used to push food from the
mouth of the mother to the child with the child receiving both the
mother's food and tongue in sucking movements, and the latter is the
same but forgoes the premasticated food. In fact, through observations
across various species and cultures, it can be confirmed that the act
of kissing and premastication has most likely evolved from the similar
relationship-based feeding behaviours.
Kissing is a complex behavior that requires significant muscular
coordination involving a total of 34 facial muscles and
112 postural muscles. The most important muscle involved
is the orbicularis oris muscle, which is used to pucker the lips and
informally known as the kissing muscle. In the case of the
French kiss, the tongue is also an important component. Lips have many
nerve endings which make them sensitive to touch and bite.
Affection in general has stress-reducing effects. Kissing in
particular has been studied in a controlled experiment and it was
found that increasing the frequency of kissing in marital and
cohabiting relationships results in a reduction of perceived stress,
an increase in relationship satisfaction, and a lowering of
Kissing on the lips can result in the transmission of some diseases,
including infectious mononucleosis (known as the "kissing disease")
and herpes simplex when the infectious viruses are present in saliva.
Research indicates that contraction of
HIV via kissing is extremely
unlikely, although there was a documented case in 1997 of an HIV
infection by kissing. Both the woman and infected man had gum disease,
so transmission was through the man's blood, not through saliva.
Hugs and kisses
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Wikiquote has quotations related to: Kissing
Media related to Kisses at Wikimedia Commons
Kissing in Strange Places — slideshow by Life magazine
Put your sweet lips... (A history of the kiss), Keith Thomas, The
Times, June 11, 2005
Kiss of Life, Joshua Foer, The New York Times, February 14, 2006
Why do humans kiss each other when most animals don't?, Melissa
Hogenboom, BBC Earth, July 2015
How Kissing Works, History and Anatomy of the Kiss, Tracy V. Wilson,