The definition and origin of the French kiss 

The definition and origin of the French kiss 

by Clara Avrillier

Updated April 25, 2023

France and the French are often associated with love and romance. Be it Paris, the city of love, or French, the language of love, this wonderful country has an established reputation as one of the most romantic places on earth. It’s only natural that there is even a style of kissing attributed to the place: French kissing. But what is a French kiss, and does this method of locking tongues really come from France? In this article, we’ll dive into the meaning and origins of the French kiss before reviewing some general kissing vocabulary. With any luck, you’ll be able to put this information to good use.

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What is a French kiss? 

The definition of a French kiss is simply kissing using tongues. This is a passionate and intimate form of kissing and is therefore often associated with love, desire and intimacy. It is a powerful way for a couple to connect and express their emotions.

Where does the French kiss come from?

It might seem like a strange question, but the answer is actually unclear. There are several theories as to the origins of the French kiss, but the most common one is related to American and British soldiers stationed in France during World War I. The suggestion is that these soldiers witnessed a more passionate way of kissing between French people and decided to take it back to their home countries after the war. Thus, the “French kiss” was born (at least in the US and the UK). 

Another theory is based on the fact that the French are generally considered more sexually liberal than people from other countries. Since the French kiss is a rather sensual form of kissing, it makes sense that the term was attributed to the French. 

Other even older theories exist, including one related to ancient India. Apparently, descriptions regarding different types of kissing are found in Indian texts, including the Kama Sutra. This type of kissing may not be called “French” in these texts, but they serve as proof that it has been around for centuries!

Kissing vocabulary

A term for the “French kiss” did not actually exist in the French language prior to 2014. To express the action “to kiss,” French speakers would simply use the verb embrasser. In 2014, the French dictionary Le Petit Robert added the verb galocher to describe “kissing with tongues,” i.e. the French kiss. 

Here are some other terms related to kissing in French:

embrasserto kiss (most popular term)
biser to kiss
envoyer un baiserto blow a kiss 
faire une bise/un bisouto kiss (on the cheek)
un baisera kiss
un bisoua peck

We’ve also put together a list of idioms that use the word “kiss” in English:

dévoiler des secrets d’alcôve to kiss and tell
faire la paix to kiss and make up
le coup fatal the kiss of death 
faire un croix dessus to kiss something goodbye 

Let’s seal it with a kiss

Although the origins of the French kiss are unclear, it is now a widely recognized form of kissing in many countries across the globe. It represents a passionate and loving way to express affection between partners and is a symbol of love that transcends all cultural boundaries. And what could be more romantic than that?

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Clara Avrillier

Clara Avrillier is a writer, linguist and content manager living in the South of France. She loves getting out in nature, doing sport, reading and playing music. She also works with many expats looking to move to France. Find out more on her website, ON IT Translations, or connect with her on Linkedin.

Clara Avrillier

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