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What would be a better word than "touch" when talking about gently stroking someone's butt?

In this context, it's a husband touching her wife's butt (she's ok with this, BTW), and not during sex or anything. Instead, he's touching her butt while she's doing something mundane like brushing her teeth and he's walking past her. A Japanese word that matches what the person wanted is なでる, which translates as "to brush gently; to stroke; to caress".

I thought "goose" would be suitable, but Wiktionary says that's for sharply poking or pinching, which isn't the case here. Would "fondle" or "caress" be suitable, or is that more associated with sex? There's also "grope", but does that imply a lack of physical co-ordination, or being unable to see what you're touching?

  • +1, but I think this question belongs to English Language & Usage. – user114 Mar 8 '13 at 14:32
  • Groping can imply lack of co-ordination (or vision), but it also has strong associations with (usually unwanted) sexual touching. Goose is usually equally unwanted, but doesn't always carry such strong sexual overtones. Brush gently, stroke, caress, fondle are all fine. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Mar 8 '13 at 15:18
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    A goose is pinch or grab, usually surprising and unexpected; whether or not it's welcomed or unwanted would depend on who was doing it, and the relationship between the gooser and the goosed. Fondle suggests a gentle grab or grope, but it's more prolonged – unlike a goose, which is short and quick. Caress is a good word for the gentle stroke or brush you describe. P.S. I think this question is fine here, as most native speakers readily understand the differences between goosing, pinching, groping, fondling, stroking, and caressing. – J.R. Mar 8 '13 at 16:01
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    なでる is also translated "to pet", as in a cat being petted, so the word itself doesn't necessarily have any sexual connotations. The literal meaning relevant in this context is to lightly slide one's hand along [something]. – snailcar Mar 8 '13 at 18:53
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Besides previously suggested terms also consider pet (“To stroke or fondle (another person) amorously”), although that may have more-amorous overtones than you desire; and pat (“To (gently) tap the flat of one's hand on a person or thing”), as suggested by Trish Rempel in a comment.

You write, “I thought "goose" would be suitable, but Wiktionary says that's for sharply poking or pinching, which isn't the case here.” Yes, wiktionary says “(slang) To sharply poke or pinch someone's buttocks. Derived from a goose's inclination to bite at a retreating intruder's hindquarters.” This is in accord with FumbleFingers's remark, “Goose is usually equally unwanted, but doesn't always carry such strong sexual overtones [as groping]” and with J.R.'s, “A goose is pinch or grab, usually surprising and unexpected; whether or not it's welcomed or unwanted would depend on who was doing it, and the relationship between the gooser and the goosed.”

You write, “Would "fondle" or "caress" be suitable, or is that more associated with sex?” For fondle wiktionary offers two senses, “To touch or stroke lovingly [eg] Mothers fondle their babies” and “To grasp [eg] The lovers fondled each other”. I've always thought of fondle in the former sense, and was unaware of its “To grasp” sense until now, so would not have assigned such overt sexual overtones to it. Wiktionary also offers several senses for caress, including “To touch or kiss lovingly; to fondle [eg] She loves being caressed by her boyfriend” and “To show and act on deep closeness shared with another person”. I think caress in the latter sense probably is the best word here.

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    The word pat could work, because it does not have an amorous overtone, but it's more of a tapping motion than a brushing motion. – Trish Rempel Mar 8 '13 at 18:17
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    Until I researched this question, I didn't know that fondle could have non sexual overtones! – Andrew Grimm Mar 9 '13 at 0:15
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Sometimes there are a couple of words or a phrase that can tell more than a word . . .

Gentle stroke

absent-minded caress

playful pat

or more descriptive: his hand grazed over the curve of her butt

  • The last one sounds like something out of Mills and Boon! – Andrew Grimm Mar 9 '13 at 0:10

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