A romantic kiss

A kiss is the act of pressing one's lips against the lips or other body parts of another person or of an object. Cultural connotations of kissing vary widely. Depending on the culture and context, a kiss can express sentiments of love, passion, affection, respect, greeting, friendship, and good luck, among many others. In some situations a kiss is a ritual, formal or symbolic gesture indicating devotion, respect or greeting, 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.

Depending on the culture, relationship and context, a person may kiss another on their lips, cheek, head, hand and each of these gestures may carry a different social significance.

The word came from Old English cyssan (“to kiss”), in turn from coss (“a kiss”).


Expression of affection and love

Kissing on another person's lips has become a common expression of affection among many cultures worldwide. Yet in certain cultures, kissing was introduced only through European settlement; prior to this, kissing was not a routine occurrence. Examples of this include certain indigenous peoples of Australia, the Tahitians, and many tribes in Africa.[1]

Kissing on the lips is a physical expression of affection or love between two people, in which the sensations of touch, taste, and smell are involved.[2] According to psychologist Menachem Brayer, although many "mammals, birds, and insects exchange caresses" which appear to be kisses of affection (e.g. lovebirds), they are not kisses as humans consider them. Psychologist William Cane notes that kissing in Western society is most 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 love.[3]:9

Kissing in Western cultures is a fairly recent development and is rarely mentioned even in Greek literature. In the Middle Ages it became a social gesture and was considered a sign of refinement of the upper classes.[2]: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 commonly done. In South East Asian countries the "sniff kiss" is the most common form of affection and Western mouth to mouth kissing is reserved for sexual foreplay. In some tribal cultures the "equivalent for our 'kiss me' is 'smell me.'"[citation needed]


Romeo and Juliet kissing in a painting by Sir Frank Dicksee.

The origins of the kiss were studied in the early 20th century by natural historian Ernest Crawley. He wrote that kissing was "a universal expression in the social life of the higher civilizations of the feelings of affection, love (sexual, parental, and filial), and veneration." According to Crawley, touch is "the mother of the senses," and the kiss was a tactile and specialized form of intimate contact.[4]:113 However, he notes that the act of kissing was very rare among the "lower and semi-civilized races," but was "fully established as instinctive in the higher societies." Yet even among higher civilizations Crawley saw differences: while the kiss seems to have been unknown to ancient Egypt, it was well established in early Greece, Assyria, and India.[4]:113

The kiss of lovers, according to 19th-century anthropologist Cesare Lombroso, originated and evolved from the maternal kiss.[5] Crawley supports this view by noting that Japanese society, before the 20th century, was "ignorant of the kiss except as applied by a mother to her infant," while in Africa and "other uncivilized regions," it was commonly observed that neither husbands and wives, or lovers, kissed one another.[4]:117 However, kissing was common among the Greeks and Romans as when parents kissed their children, or when lovers and married persons kissed. The kiss in Western societies was also used in various religious and ceremonial acts, as where the kiss had a sacramental value. Crawley concludes that generally, although kissing was prevalent in some form since primitive times, it "received its chief development in Western culture."[4]:119

In modern times, scientists have done brain scans on people when a romantic relationship progresses. Some studies found that after that "first magical meeting or perfect first date," a complex system in the brain is activated that is essentially "the same thing that happens when a person takes cocaine." In studies of affection between lovers, when participants viewed images of their partners, their brains' ventral tegmental area, which houses the reward and motivation systems, was flooded with dopamine, an internal chemical that is "released when you're doing something highly pleasurable ..."[6]


Kristoffer Nyrop has identified a number of types of kisses, such as kisses of love, affection, peace, respect and friendship. He notes, however, that the categories were somewhat contrived and overlapping, and other cultures often had more kinds, including the French, with twenty and the Germans with thirty.[7]

Adolescents kissing

Young lovers kissing in a park.

In many cultures, it is considered harmless growing up customs for teenagers to kiss on a date or to engage in kissing games with friends. These games act as icebreakers at parties and for some participants they may be their first interaction with sexuality. There are many such games, including Truth or Dare?, Seven Minutes in Heaven (or the variation "Two Minutes in the Closet"), Spin the Bottle, Post Office, and Wink.

Surveys indicate that kissing is the second most common form of physical intimacy among United States adolescents, after holding hands, with about 85% of 15- to 16-year-old adolescents in the US experiencing it.[8]

Sexual or romantic kiss

The kiss is an important expression of love and erotic emotions. In Kristoffer Nyrop's book, The Kiss and its History, 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." He 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."[7]:30 He also compares it to one's 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."[7]: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."[7]: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":[7]: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 of it?

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 sidewalk."[3] Psychologist Wilhelm Reich "lashed out at society" for not giving young lovers enough privacy and making it difficult to be alone.[3] 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."[3]: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 area ..."[3]:10

Kiss of affection

Two men affectionately kissing

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 sorrow."[7]:79

The most common example is the "intense feeling which knits parents to their offspring," writes Nyrop, but 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."[7]:82 The tradition is written of in the Bible, as when 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); and when Jacob had wrestled with the Lord he met Esau, ran towards him, fell on his neck and kissed him. The family kiss was traditional with the Romans and kisses of affection are often mentioned by the early Greeks, as when Odysseus, on reaching his home, meets his faithful shepherds.[7]:82–83

Sailor kissing his son

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 person.[7]:85

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 ugliness.[7]:95–96

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."[7]:97

Kiss as ritual

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 Christianity or Islam kissing became a ritual gesture, and is still treated as such in certain customs, as when "kissing the Pope's foot, relics, or a bishop's ring."[2] In Judaism, the kissing of prayer books such as the Torah, along with kissing prayer shawls, is also common.[9] 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 today.[4]:126

A distinctive element in the Christian ritual 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."[4]:128 Saint Cyril also writes, "this kiss is the sign that our souls are united, and that we banish all remembrance of injury."[4]:128

An early reference to kissing is contained in the familiar second verse of the Old Testament book, Song of Solomon, an ancient Hebrew love poem:

Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth:
For thy love is better than wine.[10][11]:41

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 instance, "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."[7]: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.[7]:109

Kiss of respect

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 kisses."[7]:114

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 Hercules at Agrigentum were worn away by the kisses of devotees.[7]: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.[7]: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."[7]: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."[7]: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 Nyrop points out, however, that in modern times the ceremonious kiss of respect "has gone clean out of fashion in the most civilised countries," and it is only retained in the Church, and that in many cases "the practice would be offensive or ridiculous."[7]:130

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.[7]:142

Contemporary practices

In modern Western culture, kissing on the lips is most commonly an expression of affection.[12] 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 to show affection.

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 film. Writer Louis Black writes that "it was the United States that brought kissing out of the Dark Ages."[13] 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."[13]

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 actress were often turned into stars based on their screen portrayals of passion. Actresses like Nazimova, Pola Negri, Vilma Banky and Greta Garbo, became screen idols as a result.

Eventually the film industry was forced by law to follow the dictates of the 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."[13] 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.[14]

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.[15]: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 . . ."[14] According to Citron, Mae West and Anna May Wong were the only Hollywood actresses never to have been kissed on screen.[14] 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.[14]

Sociologist Eva Illouz notes that surveys taken in 1935, during the peak of the film industry, 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."[16]

Non-sexual kisses

Female friends and close acquaintances commonly offer reciprocal kisses on the cheek as a greeting or farewell.[17] To a lesser extent this is also common between male and female friends, but men usually greet each other with a handshake. In some countries a single kiss is the custom, while in others a kiss on each cheek is the norm. 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.[18] After a first date, it is common for the couple to give each other a quick kiss on the cheek 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.[19] 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.

In Slavic cultures until recent times, kissing between two men on the lips as a greeting or a farewell was not uncommon and was not considered sexual.[citation needed]

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. A bride and groom usually kiss at the end of a wedding ceremony.

Some literature suggests that a significant percentage of humanity does not kiss.[20] In Sub-Saharan African, Asiatic, Polynesian and possibly in some Native American cultures, kissing was relatively unimportant until European colonization.[21][22]

With the Andamanese, kissing was only used as a sign of affection towards children and had no sexual undertones.[23]

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, following the south European pattern.


In 2007, two people were fined and jailed for a month after kissing and hugging in public in Dubai.[24] In 2008, Singapore's Media Development Authority fined cable firm StarHub after it broadcast an advertisement showing two women kissing.[25]

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 has been used by the police and lower courts to harass and prosecute couples engaging in acts such as kissing in public.[26][27] However, in a number of landmark cases the higher courts have dismissed obscenity proceeding against kissing couples.[28][29] Attacks by vigilante groups also are a danger for those displaying affection.[30]

In religion

Kissing was a custom during the Biblical period and appears for the first time in recorded history in the Book of Genesis, 27:26, when Isaac kissed his son Jacob.[31]:585 The kiss is used in numerous other places 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 in 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.[31] The kiss of peace was an apostolic custom, and continues to be one of the rites in the Eucharistic services of Roman Catholics.[31]

In the 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.[31] 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.[31]

This woodcut of the practice of kissing the Pope's toe is from Passionary of the Christ and Antichrist by Cranach.
  • Muslims may kiss the Black Stone during Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca).
  • 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).
  • In the gospels of Matthew and Mark (Luke and John omit this) Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss: an instance of a kiss tainted with betrayal. This is the basis of the term "the kiss of Judas."
  • 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 Western cultures.
  • Pope John Paul II would kiss the ground on arrival in a new country.
  • Visitors to the Pope traditionally kiss his foot. (The ring of a cardinal or bishop, hand of a priest.)
  • 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 Torah and then kissing it. Jewish law prohibits kissing members of the opposite sex, except for spouses and certain close relatives. See Negiah.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Biology and evolution

Within the natural world of animals there are numerous analogies, 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 is noted.[4]:114

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.[32] Non-human primates also exhibit kissing behavior.[33] Dogs, cats, birds and other animals display licking, nuzzling, and grooming behavior among themselves, but 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 been observed in numerous mammals.[34] 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.[34][35]


Kissing is a complex behavior that requires significant muscular coordination involving a total of 34 facial muscles and 112 postural muscles.[36][37] The most important muscle involved is the orbicularis oris muscle, which is used to pucker the lips and informally known as the kissing muscle.[38][39] 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.[40]

Health benefits

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 cholesterol levels.[41]

Kissing can also cause the adrenal glands to release epinephrine and norepinephrine (adrenaline and noradrenaline) into the blood, thereby causing an adrenaline rush, which has a beneficial impact on the cardiovascular system because the heart pumps faster. In an experiment by Dr. Alexander DeWees, a passionate kiss generally burns up to 2–3 calories per minute.[42]

Disease transmission

Kissing can result in the transmission of diseases, including mononucleosis, allergic reactions to nuts and drugs, and herpes, when the infectious virus is present in saliva. Research indicates that contraction of HIV via kissing is extremely unlikely, although a woman has been infected with HIV by kissing (in 1997). Both the woman and infected man had gum disease, so transmission was through the man's blood, not through saliva.[43]

See also


  1. ^ Dyer, Tristeleton T.F. "The History of Kissing", The American Magazine, vol. 14 1882, pp. 611–614
  2. ^ a b c Brayer, Menachem M. The Jewish Woman in Rabbinic Literature, KTAV Publishing House (1986)
  3. ^ a b c d e Cane, William. The Art of Kissing, Macmillan (1991)
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Crawley, Ernest. Studies of Savages and Sex, Kessinger Publishing (revised and reprinted) (2006)
  5. ^ Lobroso, Cesare. cited by Havelock Ellis, Sexual Selection in Man: Studies in the Psychology of Sex, iv. Philadelphia, (1905), pg. 218
  6. ^ "Scientists Try to Measure Love" Los Angeles Times, February 8, 2010
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t Nyrop, Christoper. The Kiss and its History, Sands & Co., London (1901) Read full text
  8. ^ 12,015 Add Health surveys (1995) considered: Halpern, Carolyn Tucker; Joyner, Kara; Udry, Richard; Suchindran, Chirayath (March 2000). "Smart teens don't have sex (or kiss much either)". Journal of Adolescent Health (New York: Society for Adolescent Medicine, Elsevier Science) 26 (3): pp. 213–225. doi:10.1016/S1054-139X(99)00061-0. ISSN 1054-139X. PII S1054-139X(99)00061-0. Retrieved 7 November 2009. 
  9. ^ Kuraweil, Arthur.The Torah for Dummies, Wiley Publishing (2008) p. 218
  10. ^ Song. 1:2
  11. ^ Magonet, Jonathan. Jewish Explorations of Sexuality, Berghahn Books (1995)
  12. ^ Larry James (4 March 2008). "The Romantic Kiss". The Zambian Chronicle. Archived from the original on 21 June 2008. Retrieved 29 August 2008. 
  13. ^ a b c Texas Monthly, Feb. 1980 p. 143
  14. ^ a b c d Citron, Lana. A Compendium of Kisses, Harlequin Publ. (2010) p. 177
  15. ^ video: Kissing scenes in the classic movies
  16. ^ Illouz, Eva. Consuming the Romantic Utopia, Univ. of Calif. Press (1997) p. 31
  17. ^ Olson, Elizabeth (6 April 2006). "Better Not Miss the Buss". The New York Times. Retrieved 29 August 2008. 
  18. ^ Marie Sophie Hahnsson. "Cheek Kissing". University of Oslo. Retrieved 29 August 2008. 
  19. ^ "Oxford English Dictionary – X". Oxford University press. 1999. Retrieved 1 February 2007. 
  20. ^ "Affairs of the Lips: Why We Kiss: Scientific American". 31 January 2008. Retrieved 28 March 2010. 
  21. ^ Keith Thomas (11 June 2005). "Put your sweet lips...". The Times (London). Retrieved 25 May 2008. 
  22. ^ Marvin K. Opler, "Cross-cultural aspects of kissing", Medical Aspects of Human Sexuality, Vol. 3, No. 2, February 1969, pp. 11, 14, 17, 20–21]
  23. ^ "Chapter: 9: A Traditional Society". Retrieved 28 March 2010. 
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