From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Elisabeth Louise Vigée-Lebrun, Madame Vigée-Lebrun et sa fille, by Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun, 1789
A group hug among young men show their close friendship

A hug is a near universal form of physical intimacy wherein two people put their arms around the neck, back, or waist of one another and closely hold each other. A hug with more than two people is informally called a group hug.


A hug, sometimes with a kiss, is a form of nonverbal communication. Depending on culture, context and relationship, a hug can indicate familiarity, love, affection, friendship or sympathy.[1] A hug can indicate support, comfort, and consolation, particularly where words are insufficient. A hug usually demonstrates affection and emotional warmth, sometimes arising from joy or happiness at meeting someone or seeing someone long-absent. A non-reciprocal hug may demonstrate a relational problem. A hug can range from a brief one-second squeeze, with the arms not fully around the partner, to an extended holding. A hug's length in any situation is partially socially and culturally determined. Lovers, and occasionally others, press their hips together.

People in many countries, religions, cultures and across age and gender lines people can without stigma publicly and privately hug.[citation needed] Hugs generally indicate familiarity. Moving from handshakes (or touch-free) to hugs reveals a new friendship.

An unexpected hug can feel invasive, and reciprocation indicates welcoming. Also, a person, especially a child, may caress and hug a doll or stuffed animal. Young children will also hug their parents when they feel threatened by an unfamiliar person, although this may be regarded as clinging onto rather than hugging because it demonstrates a need for protection rather than affection.

While less common, hugs may be in ritual or social acts in certain social groups. Hugs among male friends in such Latin cultures as France, Spain and Latin America are common—often in a joyous greeting. A similar hug, usually with a cheek kiss, is becoming a meeting or parting custom of Western women. In May 2009, The New York Times reported that "the hug has become the favorite social greeting when teenagers meet or part these days" in the United States.[2] Several United States schools have banned hugs, driving some students to protest.[3][4][dead link] In the Roman Catholic rite of the Holy Mass a hug may be substituted for a kiss or handshake during the kiss of peace ritual. Some cultures[citation needed] do not embrace hugging as a sign of affection or love, such as the Himba in Namibia.

Hugging benefits health. One study shows that hugs increase oxytocin and reduce blood pressure.[5]

Hugging in non-humans[edit]

Patricia McConnell notes that dogs tend to enjoy being hugged less than humans and other primates do, since canines interpret putting a limb over another animal as a sign of dominance.[6]

Hugging is particular to human beings, as there are not many species of animals that engage in different exchanges of warmth.[citation needed]


Cuddling is a related form of physical intimacy wherein two people hold one another with each person's arms wrapped around the other's body. Cuddling is an act usually associated with lovers and family members, though cuddling between friends is not unheard of. Cuddling is more affectionate and intimate than hugging is, normally longer lasting (usually from a few minutes to several hours). Unlike hugging, which can often be a nonverbal greeting or parting tradition, cuddling is usually shared between two people who are lying down together or sitting somewhere in an intimate manner, perhaps sharing a blanket. Like hugging, cuddling makes the body release oxytocin.


Glassy embrace, a glass sculpture depicting a hug 
A hug can be a sign of joy or happiness 

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Kathleen Keating (1994). The Hug Therapy Book. Hazelden PES. ISBN 1-56838-094-1. 
  2. ^ Kershaw, Sarah (2009-05-27). "For Teenagers, Hello Means 'How About a Hug?'". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-05-29. [dead link]
  3. ^ Grant, Denise (2010-04-15). "Students pan hugging ban". 
  4. ^ "School Bans Hugs Over 2 Seconds". 2008-03-02. 
  5. ^ "How hugs can aid women's hearts". BBC News. August 8, 2005. Retrieved 2008-11-28. 
  6. ^ Patricia McConnell (June 4, 2002), The Other End of the Leash (1st ed.), Ballantine Books, ISBN 978-0-345-44679-4 

External links[edit]

  • Media related to Hugging at Wikimedia Commons