Body language: hugs

December 19, 2010

I thought since this is the season when you get together with family and friends, I’d blog about hugs.

You’d think that a hug is a hug, but there are a lot of different kinds, and not all of them are the pleasant kind. A hug can reveal a lot about the two people and the relationship between them.

The A-frame hug

In this type of hug, the two huggers stand two feet apart, lean over, and only touch each other’s shoulders. With their rear ends sticking out, they seem to form an A frame. Sometimes, the A-frame hug also includes air kisses.

The wallet rub hug

This is also called the side or one-arm hug. Two people stand side-by-side and hug with one arm around the other’s shoulder or waist.

The baby burp hug

While hugging, the two people pat each other on the back as if burping a baby.

The jock-twirl hug

One of the huggers lifts the other of the ground and twirls him or her around.

The full-body hug

This is a hug with maximum body contact, so it’s usually only shared with lovers or someone you’re very close to.

The cheek hug

The two people press their cheeks against each other while they hug. This can also be done while one of them is sitting and the other is standing.

The shug

This is a combination of a hug and a handshake. While you shake hands, you lean forward a bit for a one-armed hug. The handshake creates a barrier between the two huggers, so this type of hug isn’t very intimate at all.

The bear hug

The bear hug is the same as the full-body hug, but it’s much tighter.



  1. I never thought much about hugs, I’m not a huggy type person. While I was familiar with the A-frame hug, I loved the descriptions of all the other types. I’m in a huggy community, and it has taken me years even to feel comfortable with the A-Frame, but I’m getting better. Now I’m up to the wallet-rub hug. Making progress!

  2. Thanks for commenting, Marie. Maybe you’ll even progress to the bear hug one day 🙂

    I’m not an overly huggy person either, but for me, it really depends on the person I’m hugging.

  3. You always have such interesting topics.

    With family or friends, I can hug or not hug, no big deal to me. I have very few family members to worry about now, the closest two died last year and the rest don’t live nearby so I’m not required to consider them very often.

    We have two different groups we meet with regularly and hugs seem to be the thing to do for almost everyone.

    A lesbian book club (mostly lesbians) and hugs on the way out the door are fairly standard and not too uncomfortable.

    A GLBT motorcycle riding club (mostly gay men). These guys are really gay and have no sexual interest in either of us but the funng thing is that the huggers in the group are going to hug you on arrival and when you leave too!

  4. I love the “The baby burp hug”. Who comes up with these names 🙂

    • Not me. For once, I’m totally innocent 🙂 Someone else came up with those terms, but I found them funny too.

  5. How does head position in relationship to a hug adjust the meaning of the relationship? I’m thinking lead/follow or comforter/comforted, etc.

    I’m curious. A lot of the subtext I get from shows is from their hugs, and for me, a lot of it has to do with how long they maintain eye contact going into, and coming out of, the hug.

    • Good observation, Lara. Physical distance and extent of body contact is just one dimension that signals intimacy. Eye contact is another, and it can even cancel out the message of the hug. In some situations, quickly looking away after the hug ends might mean “Boy, am I glad this is over!” 🙂

      AS for head position… I think that has to do with the relative height of the two people hugging and also with the nature of their relationship. Touching the other person with your face is pretty intimate.

  6. My cycling friends and I hug when we meet up for a ride, and when we part ways after the ride. The key difference between the arrival hug and the departure hug is that we try not to breath during the departure hug, since there is no deodorant known to mankind to combat cycling sweat. 🙂

    • Hehehe. So you invented another type of hug? The one-armed-pinch-your-nose hug? 🙂

  7. […] found this awesome example of an “A-Frame” on this blog: Until my freshman year of high school I didn’t know where I stood on kissing.  From […]

  8. Hi, my name is Mike Pickles. I am a Canadian teacher of 18 years. I absolutely love my career and the difference that I make in my student’s lives. It is truly incredible and I feel so blessed and grateful.

    Recently I was published in a book called “Hug Someone You Love Today, And How to Leave Your Personal Signature”. It’s a collection of stories about how a hug can positively change one’s life. Its an empowering and life-changing book that everyone should read.

    My publisher has asked me to produce a second hug book and I would love to have the opportunity to share one of your inspirational stories in my next book.

    Thank you,
    Mike Pickles
    Author of “Hug Someone You Love Today”

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  12. […] “leave room for the Holy Spirit” side hug – this is full-contact hugging, no A-frame hugs allowed, and there is the dispensing of very scientific information about how human beings need at […]

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