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[kuh-res] /kəˈrɛs/
an act or gesture expressing affection, as an embrace or kiss, especially a light stroking or touching.
verb (used with object)
to touch or pat gently to show affection.
to touch, stroke, etc., lightly, as if in affection:
The breeze caressed the trees.
to treat with favor, kindness, etc.
Origin of caress
1605-15; < French caresse < Italian carezza < Vulgar Latin *caritia, equivalent to Latin cār(us) dear + -itia suffix of abstract nouns; cf. charity
Related forms
caressable, adjective
caresser, noun
caressingly, adverb
uncaressed, adjective
uncaressing, adjective
uncaressingly, adverb
1. pat, fondling, hug. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for caressing
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The girl started, and tried to fling off the caressing hand.

    Ester Ried Yet Speaking Isabella Alden
  • She beamed at my appearance, and her every word was caressing and deferential.

    The Bacillus of Beauty Harriet Stark
  • It seemed so soft, so caressing, so far away, and yet so near.

    A Woman Tenderfoot Grace Gallatin Seton-Thompson
  • She might have counted a dozen, when she bent and put her lips to the caressing hand.

    Little Dorrit Charles Dickens
  • The hand lifted and descended again in a patting, caressing movement.

    White Fang Jack London
  • Serge's caressing words enraptured her: 'Do you really, really love me?'

  • He whom she had looked up to with adoration was caressing her.

    The Eternal City Hall Caine
  • The Baron came near to her and touched her with a caressing gesture.

    The Eternal City Hall Caine
  • "You must do as the doctors wish, dear," said Greta in a caressing voice.

    A Son of Hagar

    Sir Hall Caine
British Dictionary definitions for caressing


a gentle touch or embrace, esp one given to show affection
(transitive) to touch or stroke gently with affection or as with affection: the wind caressed her face
Derived Forms
caresser, noun
caressingly, adverb
Word Origin
C17: from French caresse, from Italian carezza, from Latin cārus dear
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for caressing



1650s, from French caresser, from Italian carezzare "to cherish," from carezza "endearment" (see caress (n.)). Related: Caressed; caressing.



1640s, "show of endearment, display of regard," from French caresse (16c.), back-formation from caresser or else from Italian carezza "endearment," from caro "dear," from Latin carus "dear, costly, beloved" (see whore (n.)). Meaning "affectionate stroke" attested in English from 1650s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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