25 Types of Hugs & Subtle Secrets to Tell If It’s a Friendly, Flirty or Romantic One

Depending on the type of hug, it can be a sign of security, friendship, partnership, intimacy, or rejection. Can you decipher the difference? Here’s how.

types of hugs

Hugging is a standard greeting, a warm expression, and a meaningful sign showing you care about someone. But there’s a thin line between hugs of greeting and something more. This thin line is determined by the hug itself. Since there are many types of hugs, all mean something a little bit different. Sounds complicated, right?

You hug your grandmother. You hug your baby niece, and you even hug your dog or your pillow. But, a hug from someone you like is something totally different.

You like them, so you want to know how they intend this hug to come across. But outright asking them seems awkward, so you need to be able to figure out the types of hugs on your own.

So, how can you decipher the difference between a platonic hug and something more? [Read: Romantic hug vs. friendly hug – how to feel the difference instantly]

Hugging is good for the mind and soul

Whether you’re hugging a family member, a long-term friend, your partner, or your crush, there is no doubt that hugging feels great. Aside from feeling good, there are many benefits to hugging, such as:

1. Reduces stress

It makes sense to assume that hugs reduce stress because they are a show of support and comfort, but did you know there is actually science behind this claim?

Multiple studies have shown that hugging actually decreases the stress hormone, cortisol, and combats the physiological consequences of being stressed. This works for both the receiver of the hug and the person offering the hug. [Read: How to reduce stress – 17 fastest hacks to a calmer & happier life]

2. Boosts Oxytocin

Oxytocin is a hormone in our body that many scientists refer to as the “love” or “cuddle hormone”. This is because its levels rise, increasing our bond with others, when we feel touch—hugs included!

Low levels of oxytocin are associated with anxiety, depression, and other negative feelings. So, physical touch such as hand holding, hugging, cuddling, and massages can all help reduce the risk of these difficult emotions.

3. Raises serotonin

Along with the “love hormone,” hugging can also raise the “feel good hormone”, serotonin. When serotonin levels are raised, it makes us feel happy, calm, and fulfilled.

4. Betters sleep

Hugs can improve your sleep as well. This is because of the effects of hugs on stress, oxytocin, serotonin, and your overall mood. So, practice hugging before bed. You’ll see that your mind and body relax and you’ll get a deeper, more peaceful sleep.

[Read: 30 benefits of sleeping naked and must-know tips you have no idea about!]

5. Builds trust

When you hug someone you care about, you feel calm, safe, and secure being vulnerable in front of them. The vulnerability that comes from hugs deepens the trust between both people embracing one another.

Whether you’re hugging because of pain or happiness, you’re breaking down your barriers and being emotionally vulnerable with the person in front of you. This requires trust, which is why *most* people don’t share hugs with just anyone! [Read: How to trust again & give someone your heart when you’re scared]

6. Improves intimacy

Touch is a very powerful non-verbal way to communicate with others. Through a hug, you can communicate love, trust, loyalty, and feelings of closeness – all emotions that play a role in intimacy.

The power of a hug is often overlooked. There is so much to gain from embracing someone you care for, from physical health benefits to emotional well-being benefits.

Hugs can also communicate a range of emotions such as empathy, understanding, peace, appreciation, support, and even attraction.

7. Strengthens relationships

Hugging in a relationship is important. It shows that you are comfortable with one another and it communicates reassurance and love without words. [Read: How to be vulnerable in a relationship, open up & 28 secrets to grow closer]

Hugging is simply a way of communicating a message via the medium of human touch. It doesn’t have to be romantic, but in a relationship, it’s important to have this physical closeness that doesn’t advance to something else.

Sometimes we just want to feel close to our partner without feeling like it has to lead toward the bedroom, right?

The health benefits of hugging are clear to see. When you feel emotionally connected to another person, you’re also giving your mental health a boost too. A relationship cannot last or become deeper when there is no emotional intimacy, but many couples find it hard to put into words how they feel.

The most common types of hugs and what each hug means

Hugs may seem like a simple thing, but they can admittedly be complicated and hard to read. After all, when you hug someone you like, their intentions behind the hug aren’t always obvious.

Hugs can mean different things depending on how they’re performed. To make things a little easier to understand, here are the different types of hugs to help you figure out just what is going on in the hugger’s mind.

1. The proper and polite hug

This is a hug for a hug’s sake only. In other words, for the sake of social etiquette. It’s the kind of hug in which someone may act like they’re hugging you but without touching you—like you have some kind of disease. This can be offensive if not for the accompanying “polite smile.”

If you’re out on a date with someone and they give you this hug, it means they’re not into you and perhaps will not want to go out with you again. But hey, at least they’re trying their best to be polite. [Read: 17 sad but true signs she’s not that into you and never will be]

2. The quickie hug

This hug happens when you catch each other in the street or somewhere public and they’re in a hurry. Basically, this type of hug is for acknowledgment’s sake.

No matter how quick it is, it means they’re happy to see you but are genuinely in a hurry to head somewhere else.

In some cases, it may mean something else, especially in a situation where they’re not really in a hurry but just want to get the hug over with. They may come close to you, touch shoulders, avoid eye contact, and just head on their way, pretending to be in a hurry.

They may have been avoiding you, but you came up to them. So instead of being rude, they give you a quickie hug. Read the other social cues to see what this type of hug means.

3. The buddy hug

This is one hug you don’t mind getting from them, just like all the other crumbs of attention they throw your way. It’s when they wrap their arms around you and pat you on the back.

It’s warm, friendly, and nice—except you would rather hug them in a different, more romantic way. Well, tough luck, chap. If they give you the buddy hug, chances are, they think of you as a friend and nothing more.

4. The heart-to-heart hug

A heart-to-heart hug is exactly what it sounds like – a hug where your hearts touch. Both huggers approach each other with their left sides, so their hearts meet each other. This is an intentional embrace meant for aligning your hearts together.

This can be a romantic hug or a friendly hug, depending on your relationship with the person you’re hugging. Regardless, it is not an accidental hug. It’s meant for creating togetherness.

5. The London Bridge hug

A notably awkward hug, the London Bridge hug is when two people embrace with their upper bodies touching but not their lower bodies. There is a clear distance between them when it comes down south.

If you receive this hug, it is absolutely not an intimate or romantic hug. This hug is usually done between work colleagues, acquaintances, or just about anyone you have a non-personal relationship with.

6. The bear hug

You know when you’re so close and comfortable with each other, you can do just about anything without being self-conscious? This is that, in hug form.

They don’t care if the hug messes with their outfit or hair. They’ll run to you with arms wide open and then hug you tightly. This is a hug done by best friends or by love interests. [Read: Does he love me? 86 warm signs he’s past like & seriously in love with you]

7. The sleepy shoulder hug

This is not one of the casual types of hugs. This only happens when they feel safe around you. This sweet hug is when they wrap their arms around you and rest their head on your shoulder for a while.

If you just met them, you’re in luck because they feel comfortable around you already. If you’ve been seeing them for a while, you’re in luck too.

There really is nothing wrong with this kind of hug—unless this is the only kind of hug they give, it just means they see you only as a shoulder to lean on, literally, and nothing more.

8. The head-resting hug

Similar to the sleepy shoulder hug, the head-resting hug communicates a deep feeling of security and comfort between two people.

This hug is when you are cozying up to someone, and you both lean your heads on each other. This embrace is an intimate gesture to let your hugger know that you feel safe and are trusting of them.

9. The one-sided hug

Perhaps the most awkward of all hugs—the one-sided, unreciprocated hug is when you hug them but their arms are limp on their sides with their body becoming stiff.

If they give you this at the end of the first date, don’t expect a second one or even a text to let you down easily. And if you already know this person and they give you this, you better think about what you may have done to upset them or turn them off because this type of hug really isn’t even a hug.

10. The squeezing hug

This is a simple-to-decode kind of hug. If they hug you with one or both arms with that extra squeeze and lovely smile, you know they had fun.

And whatever it is they did with you, you can expect they want to do it again. It’s not much of a passionate or romantic kind of hug, but at least it’s a good sign. [Read: 40 secret signs a friend likes you romantically even if they’re hiding it]

11. The snuggly hug

This type of hug from someone is more like a cuddle. You can expect this from someone who likes you and feels safe and comfortable around you.

This often happens when the two of you are sitting side to side, whether in the movies, on the couch, or just about anywhere.

This means they like being around you. At this point, especially if the two of you are alone, you better watch out for other signs telling you that you’re going to get something more tonight! [Read: 27 signs a woman is attracted to you sexually and wants to get closer]

12. The lingering hug

Now, this is a very subtle hug that only the most highly aware can detect. This hug is when they wrap one or two arms around you, and they have their hand on your back, pulling you in.

They’ll hold that hug for just a few extra milliseconds—just a tad bit longer than the standard three-second hugging rule. Usually, this is their way of letting you know that they have a thing for you. Just watch for their facial expression afterward to know for sure.

13. The side-by-side hug

This is perhaps one of the sweetest hugs someone can give. It’s like the snuggly hug, except you are usually walking side by side.

They will wrap their arms around your waist or an arm around your arm. This means that they like you or they’re comfortable around you. In fact, so much that they want to stay close to you wherever you guys go. It’s also a way for them to tell the world, “This person is mine.”

14. The boob hug

If you’re hugging a girl you like, be on the lookout for this hug. While the lingering hug is subtle, this one is not. It’s the somewhat more daring cousin of the lingering hug, and it only means one thing: I want you!

Here, she will hug you with one or both arms, but you should watch out for how she intentionally presses her breasts against you to make sure you feel them. She may even follow it up with a lazy, sexy smile and a wink. If that’s the case, you’re one lucky person! [Read: Lusty signs of sexual attraction you need to keep an eye on]

15. The back hug

This hug can mean quite a few things.

If your hugger runs up behind you and hugs you from behind, they are playful. But if you’re sitting down and they hug you from behind and pull you down, they want to be closer to you, which can be a sign of intense intimacy.

In a romantic sense, this type of hug offers a form of protection and says “It’s okay.” It doesn’t matter if you’re smaller or bigger than your partner, the effect is the same.

Back to chest, your arms hug around their waist from behind and you lay your head against their shoulder. You’ll feel safe, they’ll feel safe. [Read: 28 cute ways to show affection in a relationship even if it feels awkward]

16. The straddle hug

The straddle hug can also be thought of as a full-body hug. You are hugging with your legs and arms intertwined.

This means not just your chests are touching, but so are your privates. You are pretty much braided together with your body parts.

This is a hug from a partner after a long day or just when one of you needs some comfort. [Read: 25 ways to emotionally connect with someone and instantly feel closer]

17. The eye-to-eye hug

This is a heavily intimate hug usually done by couples as it communicates a lot of feelings.

Really, this type of hug is like a dance. Their arms are around your neck, and your hands are on their waist *or vice versa*. You may not be dancing, but you are looking into each other’s eyes. This hug is often followed by a kiss or is a follow-up to one.

There is a simple and sweet romance to this hug as it isn’t too physical or passionate but carries a lot of emotions with such close proximity without touching too much.

18. The pickpocket hug

The pocket hug is a flirty hug. It is when one of you puts your hand in the other’s back pocket and pulls you in.

This type of hug from someone usually happens in public. It is a great subtle way to be playful and sexy without drawing unwanted attention.

19. The cuddle hug

The cuddle hug is more than leaning your head on someone’s shoulder. It is emotional and even heavy. It can come with crying or deep breathing and is tight and comforting.

This hug can last minutes to hours. You can talk or be silent. It is in private when you are just together. This will only be a romantic hug, even if a relationship is ending. There is so much feeling with this type of hug from someone.

20. The pick-up-and-spin hug

This is the hug you commonly see in the movies. It usually happens when you and the other person haven’t seen each other for a while.

They will run and jump into your arms as you spin them around. It is playful and sweet but not always romantic. It takes a touch of trust to know you won’t drop them, but that can come through friendship and family too. [Read: How to be more playful and flirty and open up when you meet someone]

21. The awkward hug

The awkward hug is the one you cringe at when the person walks away. When they give you an awkward hug, it isn’t about nerves but just weirdness.

Maybe they’re holding stuff, or maybe you are, but even if you are both free to hug normally, it feels weird no matter the layout.

This could be a hug when you run into your ex or an old friend. It’s the hug you think about afterward for a while, wondering why it was weird and being happy that it’s over.

22. The pat on the back hug

This hug from someone is one step up from a headshake. It is the hug your boss gives you before the holiday break. Or the hug you get from your friends after your team wins the championship.

This hug is not romantic at all. If you get this hug from someone, your boss, your aunt, or a random lady you helped into her car, it isn’t anything more than a simple acknowledgment.

23. The hug followed by a forehead kiss

A forehead kiss is something special and tender. When you combine it with a hug, it really does become one of the types of romantic hugs which packs the biggest punch.

If you want to do this hug, just hug them in the normal way, but lift your head to kiss them on the forehead at the same time. It can often be quite a moving moment between lovers. [Read: Forehead kiss – What it means and 15 subconscious signs why it’s so special]

24. The long-lasting hug

Words aren’t needed with this type of hug. The physical closeness communicates everything that is needed.

This is a typical hug for long-lasting friendships, cherished family, and romantic partners. It is simply a tight hug that lasts longer than the average hug. By holding onto each other for longer than expected, you show support and love.

25. The group hug

The group hug is a joy-filled hug shared by a group of friends or close family members. Really, anyone who is special to you may be pulled into a group hug together.

It’s the friendliest type of hug and serves as an appreciation for your relationship with the group! [Read: True friendship – 37 real friend traits & what it takes to be a good one]

When is a hug inappropriate?

Although it certainly feels good to give a hug, it can sometimes feel inappropriate or uncomfortable to be on the receiving end of a hug.

To gauge whether or not a hug is welcomed, be sure to read the other person’s body language. They will give you signals on whether they want to be hugged before you go in for it. For example, if they are standing straight as a board or have a closed-off posture, you should only let them initiate any hugging.

Hugging is also inappropriate when there is excessive body touching between people who don’t have a personal relationship together. [Read: 23 secrets to set personal boundaries & guide others to respect them]

If you go in for a bear, straddle, pickpocket, cuddle, or any other hug type meant for couples with someone who you are strictly professionally or platonically involved with, you’re likely making the person on the receiving end uncomfortable.

The importance of understanding hugs

All in all, understanding what each type of hug means can help you know the intentions behind a hug given by someone, respect the boundaries of others, and save you the embarrassment of mis-hugging someone.

A well-done hug can also communicate your true feelings to friends, family, a partner, and even someone you’re interested in.

[Read: Friendly vs. flirty – 34 subtle flirting signs to tell if someone is flirting with you]

Hugging brings a range of health benefits while connecting you to others on a deeper level. These types of hugs will help you decipher your relationship with someone so you know where you stand!

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Preeti Tewari Serai
Preeti Serai
Preeti, the founder of LovePanky, is an eternal optimist and believer in the beauty of love and life. With an exhaustive experience in love, relationships, and ...