The Different Types of Kisses and Exactly What They Mean

Our lips aren't sealed: here's how to interpret 16 types of kisses.
Couple kissing
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Dina Cheney - The Knot Contributor.
Dina Cheney
Dina Cheney - The Knot Contributor.
Dina Cheney
The Knot Contributor
  • Dina writes for The Knot Worldwide, specializing in food, travel and relationships.
  • With more than 20 years of experience in service journalism, she also pens articles and recipes for publications, such as Good Housekeeping, Parents, SELF, Health, Men’s Health, Men’s Journal, Prevention, Fine Cooking, Weight Watchers and Diabetic Living.
  • Dina graduated from Columbia College, Columbia University and The Institute of Cul...
Updated May 07, 2023

From sensual smooching to playful pecking, touching others with our lips is a common yet intimate expression of affection. Unfortunately, because it is so universal, the gesture can convey many meanings. To interpret the many types of kisses, we connected with three experts who unpacked exactly what the various types of pecks and smooches mean.

Alix Agar is a licensed marriage and family therapist and a sex and relationship coach. Kristi D. Price is a certified matchmaker, dating and success mindset coach and the founder of KP Matchmaking. Jaiya is a somatic sexologist and the founder and creator of The Erotic Blueprint Breakthrough.

The Benefits of Kissing

For anyone wondering why do we kiss, the perks are many. During kissing, our bodies release the "feel-good" hormones of dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin and endorphins. Oxytocin, known as the "love hormone," promotes bonding and helps reduce stress. Meanwhile, serotonin and dopamine boost contentment and excitement and endorphins can ease pain. Here are just a few compelling reasons to lock lips.

couple kissing
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Kissing Strengthens the Immune System

This sounds a little unsexy, but kissing exposes us to bacteria that helps build our immunity, says Agar. "In fact, studies have shown that kissing can transfer over 80 million different bacteria between partners, which works out well for our well-being. The bacteria introduced when kissing help the body recognize and fight off illness." Plus, the act can stimulate saliva production, which washes away harmful bacteria, adds Price.

It Burns Calories

Studies have shown that passionate kissing can burn as many as 16 calories per kiss, with a make-out session burning up to 200, shares Agar. "So, the next time you want to shed some extra pounds, skip the workout and opt for a steamy smooch instead." The act can also help tone muscles in the face and neck, adds Price.

Kissing Boosts the Mood

The endorphins released by kissing help reduce pain, promote feelings of pleasure and produce a general sense of well-being, says Agar. Meanwhile, the oxytocin released can help lower levels of cortisol, a hormone linked to stress, she adds.

Smooching Improves Relationships

Kissing builds intimacy between partners, reinforces emotional bonds and increases feelings of love and affection, says Agar. "As the saying goes, 'couples who kiss more, stay together longer.'" According to the renowned psychologist and expert on romantic relationships, Dr. John Gottman, it takes six seconds of kissing for oxytocin to be triggered and released, she shares.

The Different Types of Kisses

"There are various types of kisses to express different emotions and messages," says Agar. "Some are intimate and passionate, while others are friendly and comforting. Whatever the type of kiss, it's a non-verbal way of expressing the love, affection and connection between two people." Here are some of the most common types of kisses, from platonic to romantic.

Kiss graphic
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Friendly Kisses

1. The Peck

This quick, light kiss on the lips or cheek is often used as a greeting or farewell, says Price, Jaiya doesn't recommend it for couples since she feels it's shallow and lacks intimacy.

2. The Forehead Kiss

This tender and affectionate kiss on the forehead is often used to show care and support, says Price.

3. The Cheek Kiss

A friendly gesture that usually expresses warmth, this kiss often accompanies a hug, says Agar. "It's a common way of greeting someone or thanking them after an event."

4. The Butterfly Kiss

This fun and sweet gesture involves moving one's eyelashes up against another person's skin, such as their cheek, eyelid, or nose, describes Agar. "It reflects a sense of light heartedness and playfulness between two individuals," she says.

5. The Eskimo Kiss

This kiss involves gently rubbing noses, says Agar. Originating in the Eskimo (Inuit) culture, it signifies warmth and affection between two individuals and is common among children and close friends.

Romantic and Sexual Kisses

Kissing can serve as the ultimate foreplay, igniting arousal and segueing into love making, says Jaiya.

Kissing graphic
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6. The Lip Kiss

Involving kissing on the lips, this type can range from a gentle peck to a passionate and romantic smooch, says Agar. It's often used to express love, passion and physical intimacy.

7. The Energetic Kiss

This kiss is all about the tease, says Jaiya. Instead of meeting, your lips hover next to each other and you glide your mouth above the surface of your lover's skin. "Let them feel your breath on their cheek, neck and ears," she recommends.

8. The French Kiss

"The French kiss is one of the more sensual and passionate types of kisses," says Agar. "A deep and long kiss that involves the tongue, it usually symbolizes intense emotions, such as deep passion, love, or lust." Since not everyone prefers this type of kiss, Jaiya recommends that partners be honest about their preferences.

9. Biting Kisses

"Devouring or being devoured by your lover can be a most intimate act," says Jaiya, describing this type of kissing as teeth sinking into the nape of a neck, pulling gently on a lover's swollen lip, or capturing their tongue with a nibble. "This form of kissing can ignite a delicious power dynamic and edge into your make-out sessions," she says. Yet, she advises caution, as a "powerful bite can sometimes go too far."

10. The Tongue Flick or Lizard Kiss

Jaiya describes this playful type of kissing as a game of flicking tongues together or in and out of each other's mouths.

11. The Sideways Kiss

With this surprising kiss, you and your partner's cheeks are next to each other and the corners of your mouths are connected. "You kiss each other from the side, dancing your lips and tongues together and darting them in and out of each other's mouths," describes Jaiya.

12. The Spiderman Kiss

This kiss is when one partner is upside down and the other leans in for a kiss, as seen in the movie, "Spiderman," says Price. "It feels unique since our mouths do not usually come together in this way," adds Jaiya.

Kissing graphic
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13. Neck or Body Kisses

Some of the most rewarding connections can be the worship of a lover's body with loving kisses, says Jaiya. "You can incorporate many techniques to see what flavor is most arousing. Hovering the lips above the body and letting hot and cool breath bathe the skin, kissing and licking the body, deep kisses, light kisses and biting kisses."

14. The Earlobe Kiss

This gentle, sensual kiss performed on the earlobe is often considered an erotic gesture, says Agar. While it may appear simple, it sends a strong message of attraction and affection. Since the ear is an erogenous zone for many people, this kiss can be an ideal form of foreplay, she adds.

15. The Neck Kiss

This gentle kiss on the neck signifies intimacy and passion, says Agar. It can be a prelude to love making, as it stimulates the nerve endings in the neck and creates a sense of arousal.

16. The Hand Kiss

This formal and romantic kiss on the hand is often used to show respect and admiration, says Price.

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