7 Different Types of Kisses and Their Meanings, From Platonic to Passionate

Photo: Getty Images/MoMo Productions
No one needs to be told that receiving a kiss on the lips versus a kiss on the hand leaves a person feeling differently. And while all types of consensual kisses in romantic relationships can be great, they don’t always convey the same meaning. For instance, a neck kiss might mean your partner is in the mood and turned on but also that there’s a level of depth and passion between you two. On the contrary, a kiss on the cheek might be a more platonic kind of kiss, which your partner may use as a conservative gesture when in public. Or it could even be passed between friends and family members, too. Context matters, too; for example a kiss on a first date with a new lover may have a different implication than one in bed from a longtime partner.

Experts In This Article

Of course, all relationships are unique, as are the people who are in them. That means that different types of kisses and their meaning aren't set in stone, but according to experts, there is often some overlap where certain kinds of kisses are associated with a certain meaning. However, as with all guidance about what body language means, keep in mind that it's important to also speak with your partner if you're confused or unsure about the meaning behind their actions, including your kisses. One of the key relationship tips that gets repeated over and over again is that communication is important, and those intimate conversations that lead to kissing sessions are key for making sure you're both on the same page in your relationship.

"Kissing allows humans to be in close proximity and may help in mate selection."—Emily Jamea, PHD

Why do people kiss?

Kissing is a way to communicate a range of emotions. It's a way to both strengthen and build intimate partnerships, and to assess whether we're sexually compatible with someone. "Kissing allows humans to be in close proximity and may help in mate selection," says Emily Jamea, PHD, LPC, LMFT, and sex and relationship expert for sexual wellness brand, K-Y. Seeing how a person smells, tastes, and feels can be a preview into how it might be when you have sex with them." It's also just really fun. If you’re looking for a cheat sheet for how different kinds of kisses and their meaning might play into your relationship, keep reading for an expert breakdown.

7 different types of kisses and their meaning, according to two sex therapists

1. Make-out kiss

A lusty kiss on the lips (think: the classic make-out session) points to your partner being really into you—and currently aroused. Yet, a deep, heavy kiss means that they feel a relatively intimate bond with you or are looking to get closer.

“I think a make-out kiss is about desire for deep connection,” says Jenni Skyler, PhD, LMFT, sex therapist and sexologist for sexual-health brand AdamEve.com. “Usually this kiss involves the tongue, which helps us be curious about the other person's mouth, but the tongue deep inside someone else is also about union—and therefore the desire to be connected as one.”

This type of kiss indicates a partner is looking to develop your connection. And if a passionate kiss comes up in long-term relationships, it can represent a sense of passion and unity, too.

2. Neck kiss

A neck kiss is connected to passion and can be a very romantic kiss. "It’s almost as if the kiss is saying, ‘hello sexy person, I really like you,’” says Dr. Skyler. “I think of this kiss as more sensual than lust-filled, but it can become more lust-filled if the kiss turns to a bite.” Nibbling and biting (gently) on the neck can take the kiss up a notch, where your partner is telling you how attracted and passionate they feel towards you, with a greater emphasis on sexual arousal.

3. Stomach kiss

“I consider the stomach kiss to be one of trust,” Dr. Skyler says. “This one is almost saying, ‘I love you just the way you are. You are fully safe with me.’”

If your partner gives you a few kisses on your belly while you’re cuddling and watching TV, or if they work their way up and down your body during foreplay, the stomach kiss might mean that they’re feeling protective over you, and they want you to know that you can trust them. That's because the stomach is a vulnerable area for many, and kiss there is reflective of a strong, intimate pull between the two of you.

4. Closed-mouth kiss

“It's not totally platonic, but it could indicate that intimacy is scary,” says Dr. Skylar. It could show that optimal levels of intimacy aren't really there yet.

It's also possible that a closed-mouth kiss or a peck is reflective of being pressed for time, having disinterest, or pulling away from the relationship. To decipher what it means in the scope of your own partnership, have a conversation.

5. Kiss on the back and shoulders

“For some people, exploring the shoulders and back region is super sexy," says Dr. Skylar. "On the other hand, if it’s the only kiss you engage in, then it could be a barrier to [stay away] from deeper connection and intimacy.”

Back and shoulder kisses could also just be simple and sexually driven, and your partner could be conveying interest and attraction.

6. Forehead (or head) kiss

“This kind of kiss is most often given to show care, affection, or protection, so a forehead kiss feels like an ‘I've gotcha,’ or ‘you're safe here,’ kiss,” says Rachel Wright, MA, LMFT.

Similar to the kiss on the belly, where there’s a sense of protection and trust that’s to be shared, receiving a forehead kiss may mean your partner feels responsible for taking care of you and wants you to feel safe with them. “There is definitely an endearing quality to a forehead kiss, which indicates a level of compassion or care for the other person,” she adds.

7. Hand kiss

This kiss typically conveys respect. “Offering this kiss is a way to say, ‘I love you for all of who you are, and I am humble before you,’” Wright says.

And it can—but doesn't have to be—platonic. "There is no universally accepted meaning of what a hand kiss is, but some use it as a way to say hello while others use it to show commitment,” says Wright. A romantic partner may offer one when they want you to know they find you special, unique, and valuable.

But ultimately, assuming any meaning for what a kiss means may be detrimental to a relationship. Instead, ask your partner what they're thinking and feeling if you don't know what a type of kiss means to them. And, likewise, think about what these types of kisses mean to you.

How to be a good kisser

The good news is that kissing is something you get better at with practice, so here are some tips you can glean to have a perfect kiss.

For any type of kiss, Dr. Jamea advises starting slow and easing into it before becoming more passionate. You want to make sure your partner is welcoming your touch—jumping immediately into french kissing or a deep kiss may be off-putting if they're not ready. "As it becomes apparent that your partner is into it, you can use more tongue and kiss more deeply," she says.

Your mouth and tongue shouldn't be the only parts of your body working during a kiss, either. Dr. Jamea says to use your hands to hold the back of your partner's head, to touch their cheeks or to pull them closer to you to really get those sparks flying.

Another key tip is to watch that tongue and spit. This won't be a problem with a cheek kiss or a forehead kiss, but Dr. Jamea says especially for tongue-heavy kisses like french kisses it's paramount to be mindful about how much tongue you're using.

If you're having a first kiss with someone, don't pull out any moves that they don't seem ready for like a lip nibble. "Moves like these should come after you’ve developed a safety and trust," she says. This extends down the body, too—don't start groping someone's body at the same time you start kissing them—take your time if you want the kiss to lead to more touching, but don't start there. Gauge your partner's comfort level first.

FAQs about specific different types of kisses

Q: What does it mean if someone holds the kiss for a while or kisses you multiple times in a row?

According to Dr. Jamea, this is a good sign and typically means someone wants to keep kissing you.

What is the most romantic type of kiss?

Building anticipation is key to creating a romantic kiss, according to Dr. Jamea. To up the romance in your smooch, she recommends starting with a gentle peck, before working into a gentle kiss using your tongue. Don't forget pull your partner closer and to cup or caress the back of their head.

How can I spice up my kiss?

Don't relegate kissing only to the run-up to sex. To really spice things up, Dr. Jamea suggests making kissing and making out a focus of your next date night. Take the time to lean into deep kisses and to try new moves, like maybe nibbling or biting your partner's lip or neck. Doing so will bring back some of those fond memories from the beginning of your kissing career. "Most folks remember how sexually excited they felt when they were still in the make-out stage of their sexual exploration, and arousal can dramatically increase when you put limits on how far you take things," she says.

What is a butterfly kiss?

Jamea says a butterfly kiss is when you rapidly blink your eyelashes against someone's cheek, much like a butterfly would when flapping its wings. This is a very intimate action.

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