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

Related Words for caressing

fondle, nuzzle, pat, rub, clutch, graze, cuddle, kiss, massage, toy, handle, neck, mug, pet, buss, clinch, cosset, dandle, feel, stroke

Examples from the Web for caressing

Contemporary Examples of caressing

Historical Examples of caressing

  • The girl started, and tried to fling off the caressing hand.

  • She beamed at my appearance, and her every word was caressing and deferential.

  • 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

British Dictionary definitions for caressing



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 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