It’s National Kiss Day, which is especially convenient as Word Stories is onto the letter K for the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.
Kiss comes from the Old English word coss and the verb to kiss was cyssan. Before that, Proto-Germanic had the word *kussjan which then became küssen in German, kysse in Norwegian and Danish, and kyssa in Swedish. The word probably came about because it is imitative of the sound made when kissing.
Kiss doesn’t seem to trace back any further than that; there is no common Indo-European root word. However, some linguists do suggest that *ku- could be a root, in line with the Greek kynein, the Hittite kuwash-anzi and the Sanskrit cumbati.
Perhaps the reason why there is no decisive common linguistic ancestor is because the symbol of affection is actually unknown in many cultures. In fact, kissing is a late developer with sniffing, licking and rubbing of noses being much older and more common customs.
Anthropologists as divided as to whether kissing is natural and instinctive or if it is something that has developed and been learned. Still, the Ancient Egyptians kissed and references are found to it in Sumerian texts which date back to around 5,000 years ago.
French kissing, on the other hand, is first attested in 1923. Kissing using tongues is said to be French because, at the beginning of the 20th century, the Gallic culture was known for being more passionate and romantically adventurous.
The practise of kissing can carry many different meanings in different cultures, whether it is an expression of love, friendship, passion or respect. Whatever the social message behind it, kissing can reduce stress and even lower cholesterol and burn calories by releasing adrenalin and increasing the heart rate. So happy National Kiss Day and pucker up, it’s good for you!