There are various versions of the hand kiss.
For most – if not all – of them, it serves as a sign of respect. To know what a particular hand kiss means, you must observe the specific situation it is used in.
What is a hand kiss?
A hand kiss is any kiss that entails a person kissing the hand or the other person’s ring. Again, the meaning depends on the context.
The History of the Hand Kiss
Hand kissing seemed to go back several centuries. However, finding an actual historical reference before the 8th century can be challenging.
Since Homer’s Iliad includes a scene describing hand kissing, we can only assume that the act may go back further in time.
During the 17th and 18th centuries, hand kissing had also been observed in Europe, particularly in Poland-Lithuania and Spain. You may also notice that period movies also include instances of hand kissing to express chivalry.
The practice is still alive and well these days in some countries. Places such as Turkey, Malaysia, Somalia, and more still practice hand kissing to express respect for their elderly.
Some Central and Eastern European countries still have gentlemen kissing a woman’s hand as a polite gesture.
However, the general practice of kissing hands has started to die down during the turn of the 20th century.
Nowadays, people seem to think that the practice has religious or cultural connotations.
In the modern world, wherein people can be accused of appropriation and even mockery, people have shied away from the old-age tradition.
Some people now choose to use a cheek kiss to indicate something friendlier than kissing on the mouth. A high five or a hug has also become an alternative.
Meanings behind a Hand Kiss
Depending on the context, the meaning of a hand kiss varies. Here are some of the most common implications.
Sign of Chivalry
You have most likely seen a movie wherein a gentleman kisses a lady’s hand. However, some societal rules govern it.
The offered hand usually belongs to a woman who belongs to the same or higher level in society than the man. On the other hand, it could well just be an expression of love and affection for a couple.
Kissing a lady’s hand may seem quaint nowadays, but it expresses a high level of respect, together with love. Some women may even wish that their partner still practices this type of kiss.
Gesture of Diplomacy
Kissing the hand may also show a deep sense of respect. It may be done within a group of people who follow specific strict rules.
The kiss here is not a romantic gesture like in the previous point. Instead, it is a show of allegiance.
It is almost like a promise. It is a gesture that conveys so much drama, almost like saying, “I am at your behest.” Yes, it evokes some old traditions.
Respect for the Elderly
In some cultures, a kiss on the hand is a means of showing respect for their elders.
In Muslim countries, such as Brunei, Turkey, and Indonesia, kissing the hand of the elders is widely practiced. In exchange, the older person in the family can bless the person expressing respect.
They may say their blessing or simply hold the head of the person kissing their hand.
If you are visiting a home where this gesture is practiced, make sure you take the offered hand and kiss it. It is considered a sign of disrespect if you ignore the hand.
Most likely, the younger people in the family do not wait for the hand to be offered.
They will immediately go to their elder (grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, and any other elder) and show their love by kissing their hands.
In the Philippines, the younger people do not technically kiss the hands of their elders. Instead, they take the hand and place it on their foreheads.
The way it is done may vary slightly, but the intention is the same.
It is a sign of respect and a greeting to their elders. Withholding it is a sign of rebellion.
In the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches, it is common for believers to kiss the hands of religious leaders, such as a priest, a bishop, or the pope.
When a believer makes this gesture, they express their respect and devotion to the religion and its representatives. They may emphasize the kiss by kneeling on their left knee.
A religious hand kiss is often done on the ring and not precisely on the hand.
This gesture is most made apparent when people approach the pope to kiss the papal ring. Some people do kiss the actual hands of their religious leader.
However, the kiss may have been given, and the religious leader will acknowledge it with a blessing.
He may touch the person’s head (laying of hands) or make the sign of the cross in the air to signify the blessing.
Way to say Farewell
If your guy is charming and has a soft spot for tradition, he may kiss your hand at the end of a date.
That one gesture says a lot and can mean so many things depending on what stage the two of you are in your relationship.
If the two of you have just started dating, kissing your hand may be a way for him to show you his affection without the awkward “Should we kiss on the mouth” moment.
It can also be a way of showing you he had a great time. It is a promise that he wants to see you again.
Then again, perhaps your long-time boyfriend may just want to tell you just how precious you are to him. It is a very gentlemanly and dreamy way to end a date!
Whatever the case may be, a guy kisses a woman’s hand to say goodbye while promising more to come shortly.
Proper Way of Giving a Hand Kiss
Kissing someone’s hand may be a no-brainer, but some etiquette accompanies this gesture.
- Either party can initiate the kiss. The lady can offer her hand or the guy who is about to kiss her hand. The same goes for a religious leader or an elderly person. They can offer their hands, or the other person can initiate it.
- The person whose hand will be kissed can initiate by offering their hand, with its back at the top and the palm under.
- The one who intends to kiss the hand can initiate by extending their hand with their palm on top. The palm is ready to receive the other person’s hand.
- Hold the other person’s hand gently when you intend to kiss it.
- Place two or three fingers under the other person’s hand. Your thumb should be on top. It should touch the back of the other person’s hand.
- Make sure your lips are dry.
- Make a kissing gesture on top of the person’s hand. Do not let your mouth connect with the hand unless it is someone you are intimate with.
Kissing a person’s hand has traditional, cultural, and religious connotations. It can also be used to express love and devotion.
It can be a greeting, or a means to say goodbye, at least between people who are intimate with each other.
These days, though, it can be considered unusual and surprising if you suddenly kiss someone’s hand. Of course, exceptions include belonging to a culture or religion where it is still practiced.
If you decide to do it, make sure the person will understand why you are doing it. You may do it for someone you respect or someone you love very much.
Whatever the case may be, make sure you do it the right way. Some rules govern this type of kiss.
This way, you can ensure that the kiss is done without the other person worrying about germs and the like. The other person should also not worry about you mocking them.
When done right, kissing the hand is the ultimate expression of reverence. It can also be a tremendously romantic gesture.
Yes, a kiss that uses the tongue is steamy. It promises physical pleasure. However, a kiss on the hand is dreamy.
If done with no vestige of mockery, it can be a promise of something more.