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The nape of a Geisha
Mother cat carrying her kitten by the scruff

The nape is the back of the neck. In technical anatomical/medical terminology, the nape is referred to by the word nucha, which also gives the adjective corresponding to "nape" in English, "nuchal". An English and French word for the nape of the neck is "nuque".

In many mammals, the nape is the site of the scruff, a loose, non-sensitive area of skin by which the mother can carry her young, holding the scruff between her teeth. In domestic cats, the scruff is used when a mother cat transfers her kittens, either by carrying them away from danger or to a new nest or den site (carrying each kitten by gripping its scruff in her teeth), and in mating, when the male cat (tom) grips the female cat's scruff with his teeth to help keep her relatively immobile.[1]

In traditional Japanese culture, the nape (known in the Japanese language as unaji ) was one of the few areas of the body (other than face and hands) left uncovered by women's attire. The nape of a woman's neck held a strong attraction for many Japanese men (see Geisha makeup).[2]

The nape is sometimes a target of body piercing.[3]


  1. ^ Morris, Desmond (1994). Illustrated Catwatching. Crescent Books. pp. 94, 108. ISBN 0-517-12065-8. 
  2. ^ Cherry, Kittredge (1987). Womansword: What Japanese Words Say about Women. Kodansha. p. 21. ISBN 4-7700-1655-7. 
  3. ^ "Surface - Nape Body Piercing Location Information". Body Jewellery Shop.