The Act of Touching Lips Throughout History

Have you ever wondered from where kissing originated from? It’s still a mystery of when the exact origins of romantic kisses came to be, but here’s what we know!

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Fictional images of a couple sharing a kiss.

Kissing has always been a gesture of love and greeting. Follow along as we dive into the history of kissing and how the act of touching lips has evolved throughout pop culture.

In my experience, my Arab family exchanges kisses on everyone’s cheeks during greetings. It’s a common gesture between men and women and is customary when greeting relatives. One kiss on the right cheek, and then one on the left. 

But When Did Kissing on the Lips Become a Thing?

There’s a good chance that kissing has been around way longer than written texts, but the first accounts of kissing on the lips can be traced back to the Bronze Age. Some anthropologists suggest that kissing began as a way for mothers to pass pre-chewed food to their infants, similar to birds. Over time, this act of mouth-to-mouth contact might have evolved into a way to express affection and bonding.

Two people -- a man and a woman-- with their eyes closed about to kiss.
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The earliest recorded kiss dates back to around 1500 B.C. in ancient India. Meanwhile, the Romans, those romantics at heart, popularized kissing in various forms:

  • The osculum: a delicate kiss that parents give to children.
  • The basium: more of a peck since the kissing is done with the mouths closed between married couples.
  • The savium: a passionate kiss. However, the power of a kiss became undeniable.

A Kiss of Passion and Art

The Renaissance brought a renewed focus on human emotions and expressions, including kissing. Art and literature from this period are filled with passionate kisses, reflecting the era’s emphasis on humanism and romance. Shakespeare’s plays, for instance, feature some of the most memorable kisses in literary history, like the unforgettable kiss between Romeo and Juliet.

The cover of Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
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“Ay, pilgrim, lips that they must use in prayer.”

Juliet

O then, dear saint, let lips do what hands do:
They pray: grant thou, lest faith turn to despair.”

Romeo

Saints do not move, though grant for prayer’s sake.”

Juliet

Then move not, while my prayer’s effect I take.”

Romeo
A silhouette of a woman and man with a hat kissing. They are set against a black background with white flowers. Faded flowers rain over the couple.
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From Ancient Times to Hollywood Romances

Fast forward to the 21st century, and kisses have become central to pop culture, immortalized in books, movies, TV shows, and music. From passionate, romantic kisses to drunk, unplanned kisses, touching lips has become such a common act of showing some form of love and affection. 

Scene from Spiderman -- Spiderman and Mary Jane performing the upside-down kiss in the rain.
IMAGE VIA COLUMBIA PICTURES

Who can forget the upside-down kiss between Spider-Man and Mary Jane in the 2002 film Spider-Man? Or the unforgettable kiss in the rain between Damon and Elena in The Vampire Diaries series. Not to mention the iconic kiss between Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind. These moments are filled with passion and lust which shows true cinematic romance.

IMAGE VIA COMIC BOOK RESOURCES (CBR)

Celebrating National Kissing Day

Today, we know there’s more to kissing than meets the lips. It’s proven that kissing triggers a neurotransmitter in our brains, releasing oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin. These chemicals not only make us feel good and euphoric but also strengthen emotional bonds and attachments.

If you find the right person, you might realize just how precious kisses can be.

So, go ahead, celebrate with a kiss, and make your own moment in the timeless tale of romance. And who knows? Maybe your kiss will become the next unforgettable moment in the history of affection.


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