Also found in: Thesaurus, Idioms.


A gentle touch or gesture of fondness, tenderness, or love.
tr.v. ca·ressed, ca·ress·ing, ca·ress·es
1. To touch or stroke in an affectionate or loving manner.
2. To touch or move as if with a caress: soft music that caressed the ears.

[French caresse, from Italian carezza, from caro, dear, from Latin cārus; see kā- in Indo-European roots.]

ca·ress′er n.
ca·ress′ing·ly adv.
ca·res′sive adj.
Synonyms: caress, cuddle, fondle, pat1, pet1, stroke2
These verbs mean to touch or handle affectionately: caressed the sleeping baby; cuddled the kitten in her arms; fondling the dog's ears; patted the child's head; petting his pony; gently stroked the patient's hand.
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
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References in classic literature ?
Their names fell softly and caressingly from her lips, one by one, with pauses between.
Here do all things come caressingly to thy talk and flatter thee: for they want to ride upon thy back.
Several times the noises made by the boat's crew in trimming the sheets to the shifting draught of air roused Van Horn, and each time, remembering the puppy, he pressed him caressingly with his hollowed arm.
But presently the boy's hand fell upon his arm almost caressingly and he leaned over through the darkness.
One hand fell almost caressingly upon his shoulder.
"Don't you scare yourself," he answered, drawing her to him, and passing his broad, rough hand caressingly over her chestnut hair.
Her manner was one of passionate grief; by turns she clasped her veinous and knotted hands together with wild energy, and laid one of them on the carriage-door --tenderly, caressingly, as if it had been a human breast, and could be expected to feel the appealing touch.
The Prince smiled, and laid his hand almost caressingly upon the other's shoulder.
The girdling arm lifted higher and drew her toward him, drew her slowly and caressingly. She could wait no longer.
"Michael," she called, caressingly, almost in a whisper.
The pressure of his hands relaxed, and his cheek slid caressingly past hers as he started to release her.
"Aunt Pullet," she said, seating herself on the sofa, and caressingly adjusting that lady's floating cap-string, "I want you to make up your mind what linen and things you will give Tom toward housekeeping; because you are always so generous,--you give such nice things, you know; and if you set the example, aunt Glegg will follow."