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What Is A Kiss?

Updated on November 10, 2014
The Kiss by Rodin
The Kiss by Rodin | Source

What is Kissing and Why Do We Kiss?

Some of us like kissing more than others and we all have a story or two to tell about our own personal relationship to the kiss but once you look into this quirky little ritual you might find that there's more to kissing than meets the eye. So what is a kiss, why do we love kissing and what are the dangers that lurk in the kiss?

How good are you at Kissing? Is this a skill that you can learn? There is plenty of advice out there to make you the perfect kisser.

Kissing has meant different things to different people through time and across the world has a long history and a rich culture. The meaning of the kiss has changed over time. Who does it? Everyone from lovers to mothers. It's not only people either - mothers of all kinds kiss babies and the animal world is as fond of kisses as we humans seem to be.

Am I going to spill the beans about my personal kissing habits? No, I'm afraid not (I don't 'Kiss and Tell') but you can find out more about kissing and decide whether you'll be pursing up those lips on International Kissing Day or simply giving the kiss a miss!

I love this sculpture by Rodin - it's one of my all-time favourite works of art - who can resist .... The Kiss?

The Royal Wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton

Millions waited for that moment!

Prince William and Kate Middleton's balcony kiss has been named the most uplifting TV moment of the decade (Research by Freeview) - and no wonder!

On Friday April 29th, 2011 London was the centre of the world as millions watched as Prince William of England married his college sweetheart Kate Middleton. They were, I'll wager, all waiting for the traditional kiss on the balcony. What did it mean? So much.

Of course, it's the expression and posture of the little bridesmaid that makes this picture priceless!

William and Kate Kiss on the Balcony - The Royal Wedding - BBC

What is a kiss?

"A touch of the lips"

See if You Can Pass the Test - An ap that scans your lips!

Kissing Test
Kissing Test

This lovable little ap will scan your lips and see if you pass the passion test. Must have ap?


Mother Love

A mother kisses her baby

Kisses mean so much more than the fairytale prince kiss, and they appear in so many different social contexts. What is the difference between the kiss of a lover on the lips and the kiss of a mother on the forehead of her baby? Perhaps the difference is not so great. Both send out messages of safety and sensuality. Both involve the senses, sight, smell and touch.

We recognise eachother by smell and there are powerful musk smells under the eyes. This could be how kissing started.

Quotes: "Always kiss your children goodnight, even if they're already asleep."

H. Jackson Brown, Jr

Never Just a Kiss ........ - BBC Radio 4

This programme started me thinking about this most powerful part of human, and animal, behaviour. Rowan Pelling, the former Editor of the Erotic Review, presents this piece on Kissing, the history of kissing and just why we do it.

Kissing - Who Does It?

Do we all do it?

Animals are also very fond of kissing. An (un)fortunate keeper had the opportunity to find out that Chimps kiss and employ deep French kisses to boot! Elephants put trunks into mouths, moles rub noses .... so many face to face connections have been observed in the animal world. These seem to be related to mate selection, recognition and to letting others know who you are.

July 6th is International Kissing Day

World Kiss Day? Any excuse!

International Kissing Day began life in the United Kingdom, but has since but has gone world wide, making July the 6th World Kiss Day - a day to remember the simple pleasures of kissing, so have fun!

(Do take a peak below at some of the down sides of kissing, though, before you go kissing-mad - see below).

The History

Quote: "Lord! I wonder what fool it was that first invented kissing."

Jonathan Swift

When I was young, I was told by my elders that Inhuits, (then known as Eskimos), didn't kiss but rubbed noses instead, and according to some rudimentary research on the net, it seems that it's true! The earliest references to kissing show that it all started with the nose.

There are early references to kissing in Vedick sanskrit from India 1500 BC, and in these accounts they talk of sniffing and touching. These texts talked of 'touching the navel of the whorl', touching and smelling the nose.

The words for sniff and touch were very similar and 'sniff' and 'kiss' were used interchably. It was the karma sutra that began to refer to kissing instead of sniffing.

Quote: Ancient lovers believed a kiss would literally unite their souls, because the spirit was said to be carried in one's breath.

Eve Glicksman

Snog Like An Inuit - Inuits do it with their noses!

The Arrest of Christ, Detail Showing Judas Kissing Christ, 1765

By Francisco Salzillo

The kiss has had many meaning and in the past has not always been a symbol of love.

Kissing has been elevated above the here-and-now by the Greeks, who believed that breath was life and kissing an adored object involved self-sacrfice.

In Britain we use it to seal a contract, and kisses can also show alegiance to a ruler. In church a prayer board or paxboard is passed around which everyone had to press their lips to it.

Kissing can also be perverted to take on negative and even disgusting or evil connotations. The 'Kiss of Shame' was given to the devil by witches, and was placed on anus. Judas used a kiss to betray Christ.

Pope John Paul II Kissing Feet


In Roman times a kiss could be a symbol of power. Where you kissed told much about your status and the status of the recipient. The lower your rank, the nearer the ground you placed your kiss. We still use this when a 'gentleman' bows to touch lips to a ladie's hand, and kissing the feet still shows submission and humbleness while the mouth was reserved for equals.

Quote: I am in favor of preserving the French habit of kissing the hands of ladies. After all one must start somewhere.

Sacha Guitry

The Kiss of Life

To die for ...?

Mouth to mouth resuscitation became popular in 18th century when the Royal Humane Society developed the technique to save the lives of people after near drowning.

The Kiss

By Gustav Klimpt

We had to wait until the eighteenth century for accounts of passionate kissing for pleasure. During the 17th an 18th centuries, the population became more literate and printing was invented. One of the things that people wanted to write about was relationships and how they should be conducted. New codes of conduct came about and one of the changes between the public and private worlds was that the kiss, now erotic, passed into the private zone. The erotization of the gesture continued into the 19th century giving us the much loved masterpieces by Rodin and Klimpt.

The Culture

Not everyone is enamoured of kissing!

Apparently, when European explorers first introduced kissing in South Africa, the Tsonga people were horrified. They saw it as, 'sucking each other', and 'eating saliva and dirt'. (they have a point!)

In Arab countries a public kiss can land you in prison and in Japan it can mean that you're engaged to be married.

And Not Everybody Does It The Same Way

William Kane, who teaches 'kissing', also describes different forms it can take. On the Trobiand islands, north of Australia, the people kiss by first grooming, then biting the lower lips to the point of drawing blood. They pull out tufts of hair and nibble off eyelashes. If you live on these islands, having short eyelashes is status symbol, showing how popular you are.

A fairytale kiss

So many fairy stories centre around a princess finding her prince and many of these rely on the lips to seal the deal! In this picture Snow White is awakened by the kiss of her prince, and so was sleeping beauty. Princess Fiona in Shrek was awaiting hers, only to be rudely disappointed when the ogre pulled her roughly from her bed instead of dropping a tender peck onto her lips.

But real life rarely dishes up the promises of fairy tales. In the build up to the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, I observed the preparations and media coverage of the affair with keen interest. The Royal family took such care not to make the same mistakes that they made with Diana. That turned out to be a cold-hearted sacrifice of the virgin to the unwilling Prince. This time it was intended to symbolise true love, not merely sealed a contract.

The Physiology

The musk glands under the eyes have already been mentioned, but what are the other physiological uses and consequences of smooching? Does it really make our hearts beat harder and our pulses race, or is this just a myth of Chic Lit fiction?

There is evidence that a kissing releases chemicals into the brain that make us feel good. It also has health benefits; people who pucker up a lot live longer and can result in other physical changes such as lower blood pleasure.

Touch sends information to the brain as well. Our faces, finger tips and genitals have links ot a large part of the brain and these areas are very sensitive to touch so when you kiss the brain will send you all sorts of information about the other person: their state of health, what they eat and drinking and their habits and personality / state of mind. Is this person family, friend or potential breeding partner?

Testostrone is present in saliva and it's thought that men pass this to women in an attempt to perk up the sex drive. There is evidence to show that men like wetter kisses than women. This could also be because men are 'testing' for the presence of estrogen in the woman's saliva to see where she is in cycle. See Sheril Kirshenbaum (Oops, nearly wrote Kissingbaum!), talking about the differences between men and women when it comes to kissing.

Kissing also triggers the release of dopomene which results in feelings of wellbeing and of romantic love.

In older lovers when all this is more or less redudant, the act of touching lips drives up oxytoc in in brain which then gives a feeling of attachment, security and drives down the cortisol stress hormone.

The Science - by Sheril Kirshenbaum

The Psychology

Kissing is a powerful symbol and did not escape the notice of the father of psychology, Sigmund Freud. Freud believed that our first sexual object is the breast. Babies are born knowing how to suckle at the breast and the lips make the same movements when kissing.

Although the ability to kiss is inborn, like many other things, we can improve on nature and the art of kissing is as much about learning as intuition.

Posters: Robert Doisneau Poster Art Print - Le Baiser De L'Hotel De Ville Paris

How to Kiss - You can improve your smooching techniques!

Try a few creative kissing options!

Quote: I do not know how to kiss, or I would kiss you. Where do the noses go?

Ingrid Bergman

It takes a lot of experience for a girl to kiss like a beginner.

Ladies Home Journal

The Art of Kissing - Improve your techniques with these handy guides

Lip Synced: 52 Slow Kissing Styles for Sensual Partners
Lip Synced: 52 Slow Kissing Styles for Sensual Partners

So many things are better done slowly - this book will give you a few sensual pointers to pleasure puckers.


The Emotions

"Kissing Sailor" in the V-J Day picture taken in New York City's Times Square

This image has become famous for the emotions it stirs in so many of us. On VJ Day, a sailor takes a girl in his arms and literally sweeps her off her feet. We all love it.

Alfred Eisenstaedt's accounts of how he came to take this photograph differ slightly, but essentially it came about when Eisenstaedt was in Times Square on V.J. Day and saw a sailor running along the street grabbing and kissing every girl in sight. He persued the kisser to grab himself this winning shot.

Until now the identity of the couple has remained a mystery, now a new book , "The Kissing Sailor" by George Galdorisi and Lawrence Verria published on May 15th 2012, claims the couple are George Mendonça, (or George Mendonsa) and Greta Zimmer Friedman. Happily, both are still alive and both are now 89 years old.

To cap it all, George Mendonsa will be guest of honor at the annual "World War II Weekend" at Battleship Cove, the maritime heritage museum in River Falls, Massachusetts.

What a happy story!

Buy The Kissing Sailor" by George Galdorisi and Lawrence Verria on Amazon - Not a love story - but who cares?

Just who are they? This book explores the mystery behind this upbeat photo of a sailor who sweeps a girl in the street clean off her feet. Apparently they were strangers who subsequently went their separate ways. Not a romantic tale with a happy ending but what a picture!

The Kissing Sailor: The Mystery Behind the Photo that Ended World War II
The Kissing Sailor: The Mystery Behind the Photo that Ended World War II

Doesn't this photograph lift your spirits? No wonder it has become world famous - it brings a little joy to all our lives. Read the story in this book about the background to this iconic pic.


Casablanca Movie Bogart Holding Gun Poster Print

The Poetry of the Kiss

"Give me a kisse, and to that kisse a score; Then to that twenty, adde a hundred more; A thousand to that hundred; so kisse on, To make that thousand up a million; Treble that million, and when that is done, Let's kisse afresh, as when we first begun".

Robert Herrick, "To Anthea (III)

"Once he drew With one long kiss my whole soul thro' My lips, as sunlight drinketh dew."

Alfred Lord Tennyson

"A man had given all other bliss, And all his worldly worth for this, To waste his whole heart in one kiss Upon her perfect lips."

Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Once he drew

With one long kiss my whole soul thro'

My lips, as sunlight drinketh dew.

~Alfred Lord Tennyson

" She kissed me, and my mouth wrote a poem of welcome to her lips."

Ward Elliot Hour

"The sunlight claps the earth And the moonbeams kiss the sea: What are all these kissings worth If thou kiss not me?"

Percy Bysshe Shelley

What of soul was left, I wonder, when the kissing had to stop? ~Robert Browning, A Toccata of Galuppi's

Sexy Mouth
Sexy Mouth | Source

The Dangers

Why you should keep your distance

I'm going to spoil all that lovely romance by pointing out a few of the medical down-sides of kissing and pose the question - should we kiss-the-kiss goodbye?

I knew some one who always blamed her cold sores on the fact that her mother kissed her as a child and so passed on the herpes simplex virus. She made a point of never kissing her children on the lips and taking great care when she had sores, to use her own cutlery and cups. Herpes can also be passed on after the sores have healed.

Unfortunately, there are other 'nasties', (orally transmitted diseases), that you can get by moputh to mouth contact.

The mouth is a veritable garden in which bugs and viruses grow by the million. While many are harmless, (and kissing may increase saliva which contains substances that can fight bacteria, viruses and fungi), other organisms cause gum disease and infections. A mother can transmit bugs that cause dental decay to child directly through oral contact - even sharing of spoons - and this will affect the child for whole of their life.

Coughs and colds can easily be spread by contact but you can also pick up more serious conditions through kissing. Infectious Mononucleosis (American) or glandular fever (in English), mainly affects young people and is spread through saliva. No wonder it's known as "the kissing disease."

If biting is involved, (apparently on the increase, especially amongst the young, with the current Vampire craze), harmful elements can be introduced into the blood stream. Likewise, if you have cuts or sores on or around the mouth, you can be infected with potentially serious viruses such as Hepatitis B.

My advice - Give that kiss a miss!

Kiss Quote: Kissing may not spread germs, but they certainly lower resistance.

Louise Erickson

They say there's microbes in a kiss, This rumor is most rife, Come, lady dear, and make of me - An invalid for life.


Leave a comment for me - I'd love to hear from you

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    • DANCING COWGIRL profile image

      Dancing Cowgirl Design 

      5 years ago from Texas

      Interesting stuff! I give a thumbs up for kissing!!

    • dragonlildragon profile image


      5 years ago

      very cool lens

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Quite an interesting analysis! Thanks so much for sharing - blessed by a SquidAngel!

    • BLouw profile imageAUTHOR

      Barbara Walton 

      6 years ago from France

      @PaulWinter: Well, I was given a head start when I heard the Radio 4 article about kissing. I added to it and provided the pictures! Back to the bible. I love the bits of The song of Solomon that I've heard, so I'll settle down with The good book. (Just read most of Ezekial checking up on angels for my lens on angels written under the name of EnglishLady).

      Thanks so much for dropping by and taking the time to leave this interesting comment, Kaazoom.

    • BLouw profile imageAUTHOR

      Barbara Walton 

      6 years ago from France

      @alina nicoleta92: Thanks for the kisses alina. Kisses back!

    • PaulWinter profile image


      6 years ago

      You must have spent a long time researching this lens about kissing. Another ancient piece of literature that mentions kissing quite a few times is The Song Of Solomon in the Bible.

    • alina nicoleta92 profile image

      alina nicoleta92 

      6 years ago

      This is one cute,adorable lens. Kisses :*

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Love the Giraffe photo. Great lens. Really well covered.

    • BLouw profile imageAUTHOR

      Barbara Walton 

      6 years ago from France

      @AlleyCatLane: Thanks so much for these kind words, Carloyn. The main bones was in the Radio 4 programme, but they are not there to listen to for all time. It seems such a shame. Plus I do like to see pictures.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Fantastic article, Barbara. You really put a lot of work and research into this lens. Excellent job. Blessed!


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