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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.'

  • caressing her, he noticed that her face was covered with a cold perspiration.

    Dona Perfecta B. Perez Galdos
  • 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
  • There was something feminine, caressing and soft in his farewell words and bow.

    Foma Gordyeff Maxim Gorky
  • 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)
  • Suddenly she felt on one of her hands a light, caressing touch.

    The Dead Command Vicente Blasco Ibez
  • One might have felt the brilliancy of his eyes as hard had not their blue been so caressing.

    Paths of Judgement Anne Douglas Sedgwick
  • The voice was sweet and caressing, but those eyes seemed to devour her!

    The Dead Command Vicente Blasco Ibez
  • 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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