14 Types Of Hugs And What They Mean

Not all hugs have the same meaning. Learn the real difference to avoid misunderstandings.

Reviewed by Dr Nancy B Irwin, PsyD Dr Nancy B Irwin Dr Nancy B IrwinPsyD facebook_icontwitter_iconlinkedin_iconyoutube_iconinsta_icon
Written by , Integrated MA, Certified Relationship Coach Sneha Tete Integrated MA, Certified Relationship Coach linkedin_icon Experience: 4 years
Edited by , MA (English) Asmita De MA (English) Experience: 3 years
Fact-checked by , MA Gracia Odile MA Experience: 3 years

Love is best expressed through cozy and warm hugs. You can express all kinds of feelings with different types of hugs. You can use them when words can’t describe how you feel. Hugs aren’t just for lovers or kids. Rather, you can share them with family, friends, and colleagues as well. Sharing hugs can provide comfort during difficult times. Not every hug is the same, however. A hug has a different meaning at a different time. These are 14 types of hugs according to the meaning they carry. Understanding what a certain hug signifies and how to return the gesture properly will help you maintain your various relationships. Check them out!

1. The Warm Bear Hug

The warm bear hug
Image: Shutterstock

This hug is for friends. Squeeze me! You know what we are talking about – the kind of tight embrace you give your friend when you haven’t seen them for way too long. The kind of loving clasp your granny or sister gives you every time she sees you because you guys adore each other. These hugs pull you in, squish you tight, and make you feel all happy and content from within. These hugs mean a lot as they have a ton of emotion behind them. They are the real ones and only reserved for the bestest of people in your life.

Jasmine Ruigrok, a blogger, shares her personal opinion on the importance of a cozy yet warm bear hug. She believes in the supremacy of a comforting physical hug over texts, handshakes, and other mediums. She connotes a warm hug as an expression of love, encouragement, appreciation, and a whole-hearted greeting. She further adds, “this Aussie loves hugs! When you come visit me, come with open arms, because I won’t have any awkward handshakes for you (i).”

protip_icon Did You Know?
The term “bear hug” was popularized in the 1970s to describe extremely close dancing, also known as “bump and grind”.

2. The ‘From The Back’ Hug

The from the back hug
Image: Shutterstock

These hugs are the sneaky ones in which your loved ones attack you from the back and engulf you in a tight embrace, leaving you feeling really loved. These are the hugs you get from your significant other or close family members. It involves extending your arms to enfold them in a caring hug. These are not meant for strangers as that would be kind of inappropriate. These hugs tell you that your partner or loved one is feeling especially affectionate towards you. It may also happen after you have done something nice for your loved ones and they are thankful. It could also mean that they have been missing you and are super excited to see you again. It is a very intimate kind of hug that leaves you feeling extremely comforted and cared for. You give this type of hug to someone to confirm “I got your back.”

protip_icon Quick Tip
This hug serves as a symbol of both protection and trust. It’s the kind that kids typically give to their parents, and in return, the parents carry them around.

3. The ‘Back Stroke’ Hug

The back stroke hug
Image: Shutterstock

These hugs are commonly given by friends more than family members or lovers. These are the hugs where you have an emotional moment, embrace each other, and give a little back rub along with the hug. These hugs basically mean that you wish the other person well and hope they are happy. It is a genuine and meaningful hug. It is more than just the average quick hug friends give each other. These hugs are also given by friends after a heart-to-heart talk or after they make up after a fight.

Branka, a blogger, shares her opinion on the essence of a hug and how it works wonders in immediately altering her feelings and mood! For her, hugs communicate feelings of love and affection to friends, family, and others. She feels that a hug from a family member is a grounding force and platonic hugs from lovers are surreal and emotionally fulfilling. In her view, “There are different types of hugs, communicating love in different shapes and forms. We need them all. I certainly cherish them all. They are for me a basic human need (ii).”

4. The Polite Hug

The polite hug
Image: Shutterstock

This is the type of hug you usually give colleagues and acquaintances. It is given sideways, with only a single arm. There is partial upper-body contact, and the lower body never comes in contact. This type of hug indicates awkwardness or some discomfort. If you are getting or giving this kind of a hug from your partner, it means that there are some issues in the relationship. However, it is perfectly friendly and appropriate if a friend’s spouse or a neighbor gives it.

5. The One-Sided Hug

The one sided hug
Image: Shutterstock

If you hug someone with all that you have got, and they just let you without participating in the hug, buddy, you have got issues. There is something going on in the person’s mind and they are not feeling as affectionate towards you as you are towards them. The lack of reciprocation is a clear indicator that the other person is not as into the relationship as you are. This is a warning sign, and you better engage the person in a conversation and find out where you stand.

6. The Intimate Hug

The intimate hug
Image: Shutterstock

This is a lovers’ hug. It is a close full-body embrace with direct eye contact. Eye contact is the most important part of this hug. It takes this type of hug to a different level, clearly becoming more than just plain physical touch. If you are getting hugs like these, it means you have something special going on with this person. If you like this particular someone, hug them back and let them know that they have set fire to your heart as well.

7. The ‘Hand Around The Waist’ Hug

The hand around the waist hug
Image: Shutterstock

Even if the guy who is giving you these kinds of hugs hasn’t confessed his feelings for you yet, this embrace is, well, giving all his secrets away. This hug is an intimate gesture, and it shows that he is attracted to you and wants to spend as much time with you as possible. He is happy to see you and is falling head over heels for you. It probably means that there is some kind of romantic chemistry between you both as well. So, wrap them in your arms tight to reciprocate the gesture.

8. The Straddle Hug

The straddle hug
Image: Shutterstock

This happens when the woman takes the initiative and jumps into her man’s arms. She also puts her legs over his, pinning them down. This hug shows that the woman is crazy about the guy. It involves a gentle but affectionate grip between you and your partner. If you are giving this kind of hug to someone special regularly, it shows that you both have a great bond and the love between you two is passionate. You are comfortable with each other’s bodies and are probably going to end up together, especially if your partner is reciprocating to these hugs. To hold like this is equivalent to a snuggle in the bedroom.

9. The Quick Hug

The quick hug
Image: Shutterstock

This hug appears to be awkward and unwanted. Both parties give each other a quick grab and pretend it never happened. But, that isn’t really the case here. This hug basically means that even though there is love or affection between the two of you, it is kind of weird to hug each other at this point in your relationship (or time), so it is best to keep it quick and casual. This kind of hug is given and received when people are in the first stages of a relationship or between siblings after a fight.

10. The ‘Head On Shoulder’ Hug

The head on the shoulder hug
Image: Shutterstock

This happens when either the man or the woman lays their head on their mate’s shoulder. If this hug often takes place between you and your significant other, you should be aware that there is strong connection, love, and affection between you two and you are both willing to spend your lives looking after each other. You have deep respect and adoration for each other, and the relationship is doing well. It also means you are extremely comfortable together.

11. The Comforting Hug

The comforting hug
Image: Shutterstock

This is the kind of hug you give your friend when they are in need of emotional support. It is a heart-to-heart hug that calms the person you hug and is very personal and intimate. You can also give a comforting hug to someone who is extremely tired or emotionally drained to nestle them in your calming embrace. This hug shows that you care about the other person and want to ease their pain.

12. The Self-Hug

The Self-Hug
Image: Shutterstock

People often cross their arms and hold their elbows while speaking. This could signify a lack of self-assurance or protection. Essentially, they seek comfort and emotional upliftment, like hugging themselves. This simple gesture highlights their deep-seated emotions and subconscious desire for connection.

13. The Group Hug

The Group Hug
Image: Shutterstock

Hugs can be shared with friends, family, or team members to celebrate, show support, or share sorrow. Group hugs symbolize unity and generate positive energy within the group, strengthening your bonds and making you happier. They can bring comfort and build great companionship.

Envy, a blogger, shares her personal experience of how comforting a hug can be in situations of dismissal and grief. She laid out various vulnerabilities such as failing a driving test, being unable to dress up for Halloween, feeling ugly, and more that make her crave an escape into a soft relaxing hug. She further adds, “Let’s face it: we all have those moments when we feel like crap. We all need a hug every now and then (iii).”

Infographic: Benefits Of Hugging

Hugs can make relationships stronger. But, of course, they should be consensual. They are supposed to make you feel good and not uncomfortable. Apart from providing comfort, hugs have a lot to offer in terms of health too. They have the power to keep you from illnesses and give that much-needed boost to your health.

Check our infographic below to know more about the health benefits of hugs:

benefits of hugging (infographic)

Illustration: StyleCraze Design Team

We all agree that cozy and warm hugs are the best expression of love and care. This simple yet profound gesture can have many meanings depending on how you approach the other person for a hug. For instance, the polite hug is reserved for colleagues and acquaintances as the people hug each other sideways with only one arm. Similarly, a warm bear hug is for greeting close friends and loved ones, where you tightly embrace each other. You can figure out the relationship dynamic between two people by observing how they hug. So, go ahead and hug it out with your precious ones and let them know they mean so much to you.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a flirty hug?

A flirty hug is one where there is lingering touch just as the hug ends. If their hands are on your waist (or lower) or around your neck, it could be a flirty hug.

How do you know if a hug is romantic?

You know a hug is romantic when the person makes intense eye contact before going in for the hug. They either put their arms around your neck so your attention is on them, or they hug you at the waist or lower to pull you in closer to them.

What does a half hug mean?

Half hugs are not intimate. They are shared between friends and acquaintances. Most introverted and socially awkward people give half or side hugs.

How long should hugs last?

In normal situations, like when you meet someone or are saying bye, a hug lasts for a couple of seconds. But in situations where a friend or loved one needs emotional support, it can last longer.

How many hugs do we need a day?

According to a family therapist, human beings require a certain number of hugs every day for their well-being. It is claimed that for survival, we need at least 4 hugs a day; for maintenance, we require 8 hugs a day; and for growth, we need to receive 12 hugs a day.

Key Takeaways

  • Hugs are the perfect way to express your love for your loved ones when you don’t have the right words to do so.
  • There are many different types of hugs, and each hug holds a different meaning at a different time for a different person.
  • The quick hug is usually shared between siblings, while the straddle hug is almost exclusively reserved for lovers.
types of hugs

Image: Dall·E/StyleCraze Design Team

Learn the secret language of hugs! Discover what 11 different types of hugs mean and how to interpret them from the following video.

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Dr Nancy B Irwin

Dr Nancy B IrwinPsyD

Originally from Atlanta, Dr. Nancy Irwin graduated from UWG in 1977 with a Bachelor of Music in Opera Performance. She moved to New York City in 1985 to pursue a career as a stand-up comedian. She worked all over the country and abroad and moved to Los Angeles in 1994 when she heard that Hollywood needed more blondes. Dr. Irwin...read full bio

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