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 formsca·ress·a·ble, adjectiveca·ress·er, nounca·ress·ing·ly, adverbun·ca·ressed, adjectiveun·ca·ress·ing, adjectiveun·ca·ress·ing·ly, adverb

Synonyms for caress

1. pat, fondling, hug. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for caress

Contemporary Examples of caress

Historical Examples of caress

  • I will go out of my way to caress one who shows any desire to be friendly.

    Ballads of a Bohemian

    Robert W. Service

  • He would have taken her in his arms again, but she evaded the caress.

    Within the Law

    Marvin Dana

  • Men in his condition were apt to be as quick with a blow as with a caress.


    Mary Roberts Rinehart

  • A word of consolation, a caress, even from her mother, would have distressed her.

    The Dream

    Emile Zola

  • It had been so long since such a touch had thrilled him, so long since any caress had been given him.

    The Little Colonel

    Annie Fellows Johnston

British Dictionary definitions for caress



a gentle touch or embrace, esp one given to show affection


(tr) to touch or stroke gently with affection or as with affectionthe wind caressed her face
Derived Formscaresser, nouncaressingly, adverb

Word Origin for caress

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

Word Origin and History for caress

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.


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

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper