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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. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for caressing
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • She drew nearer to me, and in a caressing child-like way, lifted up her mouth to be kissed, as she said: 'Welcome to Fairview.'

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

    The Bacillus of Beauty Harriet Stark
  • It flung a soft, caressing radiance on its shabby home, and on its mistress, and on the other girls and boys.

    Nights in London Thomas Burke
  • It seemed so soft, so caressing, so far away, and yet so near.

    A Woman Tenderfoot Grace Gallatin Seton-Thompson
  • Then after a moment she put out her hand with a caressing little gesture.

    The Mystery of a Turkish Bath E.M. Gollan (AKA Rita)
  • She might have counted a dozen, when she bent and put her lips to the caressing hand.

    Little Dorrit Charles Dickens
  • One might have felt the brilliancy of his eyes as hard had not their blue been so caressing.

    Paths of Judgement Anne Douglas Sedgwick
  • Serge's caressing words enraptured her: 'Do you really, really love me?'

  • I have not even the joy of caressing a child that would have consoled me.

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



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
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