What does it mean when your crush gives you a hug, places their cheek next to yours, and mimes an air kiss? Do they have romantic feelings for you, or are they French? Different kind of kisses can mean different things depending on the context — kissing your toddler cousin on the cheek is very different from kissing your partner on the cheek, after all.
If you're trying to figure out whether that air kiss was platonic or romantic, well, we can't necessarily tell you. It all depends on the situation and the people involved. But we can help explain the different kinds of kisses out there — because an air kiss and a French kiss are very different, after all.
When it comes to any kind of kissing, communication and practice are key. "Great kissing is part knowledge, part attitude, and part skill," Eric Marlowe Garrison, an AASECT-certified clinical sexologist and author, previously told Refinery29. "There is also no universal definition of a great kiss, so learning how to kiss well is a game of show and tell.”
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Kiss on the lips
Most make-out sessions start with a kiss on the lips, then move into longer kissing, French kissing, and maybe some neck kissing, too. But a closed-mouth kiss on the lips can also be a way for friends and family members to show affection. (Just look at all the mommy-shaming comments about celebs who kiss their young kids on the lips, such as Olivia Wilde and Hillary Duff.)
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A French kiss is the term for kissing with tongues — and in France, it's called un baiser amoureux ("a lover's kiss") or un baiser avec la langue ("a kiss with the tongue"). As the French term indicates, this kind of kiss has a sexual connotation — you wouldn't French kiss a purely platonic friend (though you would French kiss a friend with benefits).
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The neck is a particularly sensitive area, and many people find it a turn-on when a partner kisses their neck, especially near the nape or on the side of the neck. This type of kiss is often part of a make-out session, combined with French kisses and kisses on the lips.
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Just like neck kissing, some people find ear kissing to be a turn-on, particularly focusing on the lobe. Add this type of kissing to your make-out repertoire, if you or your partner is into it.
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Air kissing is when you put your face close to another's and make a kissing shape or sound with your mouth, without actually touching their skin to your lips. In some cultures, it's common to do one, two, or three or even five air kisses when greeting someone close to you, whether a romantic partner, a platonic friend, or a family member.
According to Conde Nast Traveler, air kiss greetings are common in much of Europe and Latin America, as well as in the the Philippines and some Middle Eastern countries (though usually only for friends or relatives of the same gender).
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A kiss on the forehead is a sign of affection — it can be romantic, when given by a significant other, but it's also a common kiss between family members or friends.
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Like forehead kisses, cheek kisses are a sign of affection that can be shared between loved ones of any kind — romantic partners, friends, or family members. Unlike in an air kiss, you actually touch your lips to someone's cheek.
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In a hand kiss, you raise a person's hand to your mouth and lightly kiss their fingers, knuckles, or the back of their hand. This type of kiss is traditionally a gesture of courtesy or respect, particularly from men towards women, though it can also be used to express affection. In some Middle Eastern countries including Turkey, hand-kissing is a customary way for people to greet elders, particularly close relatives such as parents and grandparents.