To quote Hot Chocolate, the most perfectly named, sweet and smooth and sexy pop band of my younger years: “It started with a kiss…” Yep. This was way back when: then I was in my lip-smacking lip-locking prime, I must remember this, way back then when I was rarely tonguetied. Life was more full-on snog than social peck back then. I was a Love Gun who could Rock and Roll All Nite. Nary an air kiss to blight the blue skies of a rose-tinted golden age.
Play it again, Sam (a misquotation, I know): “You must remember this / A kiss is just a kiss…” Oh, I remember that mouth music. I really do. You played it for her, now play it for me.
Growing up my renewable supply of social hugs and kisses on the cheek was strictly reserved for a hierarchy of aunties, ‘aunties’, and grans. In the main I tried not to reciprocate. I was a boy. I suffered being kissed by nicotiney, lipsticky, hard-pressed lips. My mum always said, “Kiss your Gran,” but she was generous with her kisses and her hugs, at least as far as I was concerned.
As time went by, and despite the appetites of adolescence, greetings were still conventional, somewhat formal. Man to woman (my POV) the aspirational handshake was soft and gentle. Man to man, a firm grip was to be admired. These were the handshake days of yore when the limp and sweaty approximation was much despised or derided.
Now, oh brave new world, here we are: greeting each other in this bravely hugging, cheek-kissing, newly gender-blind (gender-curious?) – is-it-PC? – social grind. I have lately been mwahed so I thought I might pucker up and tender a select glossary of kiss-related words & merely tangential items of osculatory interest. What? WTAF? Oh, and because I have been working on A Dictionary of English Rhyming Slangs for the last few years there’s quite a bit of that stuff in here too. Now read on…
Let’s start with the basics. A kiss is so many things to so many people but it’s not the easiest thing to define.
A kiss is a noun. To kiss is a verb. Kissing is fantastic. You know this stuff.
Kissing is the act of touching with your lips.
A kiss may be neutral, caring, hot or cold.
A kiss may welcome a new born baby or invite the process that leads to a new born baby.
A kiss is instinctively calibrated with degrees of heat and enthusiasm.
A kiss has the power to express innocent love and hungry desire.
A kiss is an invitation and a sexual caress.
A kiss has the subtlety to express the difference between greeting and foreplay.
A kiss may aver a respectful farewell or avow ardent commitment.
A kiss might be no more than a fleeting moment of conventional contact.
A kiss is a highly nuanced form of personal communication.
A kiss may linger.
X: A kiss may be pressed but not always welcomed.
X: Some people practice on their hands.
X: Some people kiss their pets.
X: The Hot Chocolate kiss was in the back row of the classroom. Back in 1982.
This ritualised kiss is quite the perfect way to avoid inappropriate levels of intimacy. Simply purse or pucker in the general direction of an intended kissee (or, often, kissees) and, with what feels to you like the right degree of extravagance or faux-sincerity, lip-smack the air. For pretenders and propagandists there really is no finer way to socialise.
X: It is perfectly possible to air kiss whilst in cheek-to-cheek contact with the intended recipient of your largesse.
X: The intimate noises of empty kisses may be masked with a mellifluous cacophony of mwahs.
blow a kiss
To kiss your fingertips and blow that kiss where you will. It is also possible to dispense with fingers altogether in these affectionate transactions: you can simply kiss ‘n’ blow without slipping into the air kiss category. It just takes a little practice.
X: Coming in at 1611 blow a kiss has greater and far more English history than air kiss which is first recorded in Chicago in 1887. So air kissing might just be too unorthodox for traditionalists who disdain Americanisms.
In the mid 16th Century if you had a fancy for a vigorous kiss then buss might serve your needs, both verb and noun. Nowadays, nearly 400 years later, some folk still buss a bit but nowhere near as often.
This is a kiss for which no lips or lepidopterists are required. A butterfly kiss is an intimate caress with fluttering eyelashes, an actively affectionate or flirtatious brushing by one of another’s cheek.
Rhyming slang for ‘the missus’, a wife. Or, if you are so inclined – and have your hands on a copy of A Dictionary of English Rhyming Slangs – you could choose from cheese and kisses, cows and kisses, hugs and kisses and love and kisses. Candy kisses are sweet. The candy kisses is sweet.
OK. I shan’t mention the dictionary again. Honest. Mwahahaha!
cuddle and kiss
A young woman. A cuddle and kiss is rhyming slang for ‘miss’ not necessarily a statement of intent. Use with caution.
cuddled and kissed
Rhyming slang for ‘pissed’, drunk.
Right cheek, then left: as a greeting. According to Debrett’s advice on the etiquette of social kissing, the double kiss “is not appropriate in many professional situations”. Use with caution.
A kiss for which lips are superfluous. This time your nose is the active facial feature. An Eskimo kiss is the deliberate touching of nose tips (not an accidental bumping while lips are seeking contact). A practice apparently based on a misinterpreted grain drawn from an Inuit truth.
Mouth on mouth kissing. From a primarily American and necessarily vague code of measurement that uses baseball as a sexual metaphor. Shared with the world via American high school movies and other US teen culture.
X: Second base denotes the touching or, better yet, kissing of breasts; third base involves fondling or, better yet, kissing the genitals; fourth base – the home run – is the grand achievement of sexual intercourse (and at least one happy teen). Strike out and you don’t even get to first base.
A greeting in which a kiss is given to both cheeks. The term derives as an observation of French behaviour. It’s also rhyming slang for ‘piss’.
French kiss; French; Frenchy
A mouth to mouth kiss in which tongues are engaged. The term derives as a presumption of French behaviour. Until 2014 the French did not have a popular dictionary word for it: they just got on with it. A ‘galoche’ (French kiss) has been recorded as slang since the mid-1970s. Now, however, it’s official; and long may they ‘galocher’.
X: I cannot speak the language, but I can kiss in the tongue…
Face to face action in the form of a headbutt: a forehead to nose collision of violent intent. In practice much the same as a Liverpool kiss but decades later in coinage.
gypsy’s kiss; gypsy’s
This is rhyming slang for ‘piss’. Kiss gets used a lot as the rhyme for ‘piss’. I could have also chosen angel’s kiss, French kiss, goodnight kiss or several others but right now I am in need of a gypsy’s, and it looks like it’s going to gypsy’s kiss down which would gypsy’s kiss me off, so no time to hang about.
The action of kissing the back of another’s hand as a courteous gesture that may evidence, by circumstance rather than degree, admiration, allegiance, gallantry, politeness or regard. Hand kissing may also be derided as archaically quaint and unnecessarily chivalrous or served up as a prank.
A rhyming slang kiss. Aspirational.
Rhyming slang for necking, which is rather more than just pecking.
hit and miss
Another rhyming slang kiss, this one comes with tempered expectations.
Keep It Simple, Stupid
A design principle further simplified in the acronym KISS. With pleasing symmetry, the KISS principle may be applied to the process of kissing. Try it.
Kermit the Frog
Rhyming slang for snog.
X: Celebrity Muppet and Miss Piggy snogger Kermit the Frog actually has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
A made-up and costumed rock band from America, formed in 1973 by the Starchild, the Demon, Space Ace, and the Catman. KISS was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013.
kiss and cuddle
Rhyming slang for muddle. One thing leads to another.
kiss and make up
To restore friendly relations. Nothing to do with KISS.
kiss and tell
To indiscreetly recount details of your sexual encounters; to kiss and sell the story of an intimate relationship with someone who is by some accounts a celebrity. NB: safe sex is remembering to sign that NDA before foreplay gets underway. Verb, noun, adjective and bloody annoying.
To suck up to someone; to toady. A British verb for the activity of ‘arse-kissers’.
Sycophantic, obsequious, oleaginous. An American adjective for the activity of ‘ass-kissers’
To console and cure an ill or injured person, especially a young ‘un, by anointing with the best medicine known to man – the application of a kiss (or, better yet, kisses) to an area of discomfort or injury. To kiss better is to offer so much more than a mere placebo ever can.
An historic American sporting tradition from the 1980s, intended to fill gaps in baseball action and coverage. A broadcast camera – the ‘kiss cam’ – selects a random couple in the stadium crowd and displays their (expected) show of affection on the big screen and, often, to the viewers at home. If the game is slow, at least someone is getting to first base.
A playground game, from ‘more innocent times’, that normalised predatory behaviour. Once captured, the fancied prey is subjected to a kiss from whoever is ‘it’. Seconds away, round two.
X: A kiss is the price paid for a special delivery in the game of Postman’s Knock.
A decorative curl of hair that, subjected to spit or product, lies flat against the forehead; to the side of the cheek; in front of the ear; or on the nape of the neck. Does a kiss curl enhance the kissability of the adorned?
kiss something goodbye
To reluctantly give something up. You may have wished for an unsplit infinitive in the last sentence. Well, you can kiss that goodbye.
KISS FM UK / KISS RADIO
‘The Beat of the UK’, if you can believe your streaming ears.
Kiss me, Hardy
Rhyming slang for Bacardi rum. Mine’s a kiss me and coke, cheers.
X: “Kiss me, Hardy,” are the alleged last words of Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar. It’s a lovely story. Far more likely that the dying admiral said, “Kismet, Hardy”. Hardy was flag captain to Admiral Lord Nelson. Kismet is fate.
Kiss Me Kate
Rhyming slang for a romantic date. Not exclusive to Kates, Katherines or Kitties.
X: Kiss Me Kate is a Cole Porter musical based on Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew; it is likely that Shakespeare based his play, in part at least, on the popular ballad, Merry jeste of a shrewde and curste candy kisses.
kiss me quick
Rhyming slang for prick: a penis or a fool. Or dick: a penis or a fool.
X: ‘Kiss me quick’ (squeeze me slow) worn as a slogan on souvenir hats was, and maybe still is, a popular seaside invitation.
X: Kiss-me-quick has a romantic history in the hats, curls and flora of the 19th century.
kiss my arse; kiss my ass
An antique rhetorical riposte that encompasses defiance and dismissal in required measures. And if you don’t like my split infinitives you can boldly kiss my arse. That is not an invitation.
X: Irish-British celtic-folk-punk band The Pogues were originally named Pogue Mahone, an Anglophonic rendering of póg mo thóin until someone somewhere caught on and told the BBC that it was Irish for kiss my arse. That’s no way to get on with Auntie.
kiss of death
Anything that guarantees failure for a planned or ongoing activity. Or anyone.
X: Don’t never ax a grammarian supremacist to [insert adverb] proofread a blog. Kiss of death, that’ll be.
kiss of life
- Mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, rescue respiration as was once practiced by first aiders everywhere. It’s complicated but there are a number of good reasons why chest compressions are now preferred. Takes all the fun out of it.
- It’s also rhyming slang for wife.
X: Nellie the Elephant or Staying Alive offer exactly the right rhythm for the first aider to singalong and pump away.
To remove, to kill. It’s a bit of dated American slang from the days when gangsters, hepcats and Hollywood spread the word and got kissed off.
When the intention is to convey disappointment, disdain, dissatisfaction or irritation, kiss teeth is the action of sucking air through the teeth accompanied by sufficient tongue movement to create a sucking noise. Sort of a wet ‘tut’.
kiss the book
Take an oath (on your appropriate book).
kiss the cup
Take a drink (of your preferred tipple).
kiss the ring
Show respect. To kiss someone’s ring was originally an act of obeisance to monarchy, nobility and the Catholic hierarchy. Now kissing the ring is used more loosely and applied figuratively.
The tempting nature of kissable lips rather than an active ability to kiss.
Kissing. Nothing more or less than kissing. Rare but rather lovely. Nothing nicer than a spot of kissage and huggage if that’s your baggage.
kisses and hugs
Rhyming slang for drugs.
Your kisser is your north and south. Your kisser is your dial. It’s slang, originally used in the boxing world. Your mouth. Your face. Your kisser.
Kissing the Pink
UK synthpop group formed in 1980. Probably, fingers crossed, named after a glancing blow on the pink ball in a game of snooker.
XXX: And that’s not to mention kiss the dust, kiss the ground, kiss the rod, kiss the stocks, kiss-cloud, kiss-cow, kiss-me, kiss-me-at-the-gate, kiss-me-ere-I-rise, kiss-my-loof, kiss-sky, kissing bug, kissing cousin, kissing-crust, kissing gate, kissing kind, kissing trap, kissingly and kissproof, all of which and more you can find in the OED should the mood take you.
kiss up to
US variation of ‘suck up to’.
She only lived twice. Kissy is a character in Ian Fleming’s 1964 novel You Only Live Twice who, among other adventures, gets pregnant by James Bond. Her backstory and arc in the 1967 movie You Only Live Twice are somewhat different. Kissy was played on screen by Mie Hama, dubbed by Nikki van der Zyl and doubled in the swimming sequence by Diane Cilento (who, at that time, was married to Sean Connery who, at that time, was James Bond). Kissy Suzuki appears in a 2012 list of best ‘Bond girl’ names.
Rhyming slang for piss. Less sapphic and more Australian rugby league than you might have imagined.
An intemperate tête à tête; maybe a little looser in definition but surely no less violent than the later Glasgow kiss.
- This may be either an overemphasised kiss or an air kiss.
- Used as an interjection that represents of the sound of a big, biggish or, at the very least, overly sincere kiss. Mwah!
X: Purists and traditionalists are often surprised to find mwah in a dictionary – but there it is. First recorded in 1966 in the US. It is the early 1990s before the UK puckers up and takes notice.
To kiss in an over-the-top fashion or to air kiss. Not so much a word as a spelling attempt to capture an imitation of the sound of someone making all the right noises while faking a double kiss. But, yes, it’s in the dictionary. And it’s fun to mwah-mwah.
X: What’s more, mwahahaha! as a cartoony representation of villainous laughter has been in the OED since 2012. Take that, you dictionary pedants! Mwahahaha has nothing to do with mwah-mwahing. Honest. Entirely different motivation… Mwahahaha!
mwah my ass
A nicely alliterative version of kiss my ass. As seen on T-shirts.
To kiss. It’s a bit more of a mouthful than kiss with its down to earth, keeping it real, Old English etymology cred; to osculate has Latin roots and therefore, you might think, lends a little arch dignity to the whole sloppy business.
A quick or perfunctory kiss. Verb and noun. Perhaps in imitation of a bird’s beak action.
plates and dishes
Rhyming slang for kisses. Really. Coined, perhaps, by someone with a mouthful.
The pressing of lips to skin to produce a farty sound. Blowing a raspberry, of course, may be considered disrespectful. On the other hand a raspberry kiss is somewhere between silly and intimate. Derives from rhyming slang: ‘raspberry tart’, fart.
American rhyming slang for kiss.
riddle and kiss
Rhyming slang for piss. No, I have no idea why either. Other than the fact it rhymes.
smack; smacker; smackeroo
A noisy kiss when planted on a kissee.
An extended and full on kiss and cuddle. Verb and noun. And well worth the effort.
A French kiss in other words. Verb and noun.
To kiss, to French kiss, especially with youthful vigour. Very much a triumph of content over style.
Sealed With A Loving Kiss; Sealed With A Kiss. Once, this was WW2 back-of-the-envelope stuff now it’s WWW sexts that get all the coded action. But of all the well-known codes on the back of soldiers’ letters home SWALK is the stand out, the one that make no real sense as a word. What or where is a swalk?
The best-known examples of the SWALK form (apart from SWALK) adopt towns and countries as the source of saucy acronyms. Here’s just a few: BURMA – Be Upstairs Ready My Angel; ENGLAND – Every Naked Girl Loves A Naked Dick; NORWICH – Nickers (knickers) Off Ready When I Get Home; EGYPT – Eager to Grab Your Pretty Tits. More sentimental in tone (and with Brexit in mind) you might prefer to holiday in FRANCE – Friendship Remains And Never Can End or ITALY – I Trust And Love You.
To take the ta-ta kiss (or the goodnight kiss) is to take the piss.
French kissing embraced with passionate vigour. To play tonsil hockey well is to demonstrate joy in the game of love.
Tooting Bec; Tooting
A rhyming slang peck.
In written communications, a kiss. There is little more pleasing than getting lots of kisses on the bottom.
XXXXX: The Bald-Headed Hermit & The Artichoke, A. D. Peterkin’s ‘Erotic Thesaurus’ offers us a long list of alternatives for kiss, including:
Box tonsils, buzz, canoodle, exchange spit, face rape, face time, give a tonsillectomy, give sugar, give tongue, goo it, grease, grub, have some lip action, have some tongue sushi, lip, lock lips, lollygag, mack, make kissy-face, make licky-face, make out, make smacky lips, mesh, MKA [major kiss action], mouse, mouth, mouth wrestle, mow, muckle on, mug, muzzle, neck, PDA [public display of affection], park, pass secrets, perch, plant a big one, play kissy-poo, play mouth music, poof (!?), scoop, smooch, smoodge, smoush, smooch, stir, suck heads, swap spit, taste, throw the tongue, tongue wrestle, zoom in.
I started this puckering peregrination with a song. So, here’s three more classics I have been humming while writing. You can tell I have not been listening to KISS or KISS.
Save Your Kisses for Me, Brotherhood of Man (sorry, it’s an earworm).
Purple Haze, Jimi Hendrix (for the mondegreen-inspiring line): Excuse me while I kiss the sky.
Kiss, Prince, Tom Jones/Art of Noise: I just want your extra time and your… kiss. Now, excuse me while I kiss this guy, it’s time I was off. Mwah mwah mwah. Missing you already.