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11 Different Types Of Hugs And What They Mean

by Jessica

As a child, I was never a touchy-feely person. The ease with which people reach out, touch, and hold each other has always been a source of curiosity to me, so I decided to investigate further. Why do people hug? What are the types of hugs guys like? What kind do girls like? How to tell if a hug is romantic? Are there different types of hugs? Imagine my surprise when I found out that there are 11 different types of hugs and each one of them has different connotations and health benefits.

If, like me, you too have been confused about why hugging is such a prominent expression of intimacy and affection, you’re in the right place. I’m going to share all that I’ve learned about the different ways of hugging and what they convey. Let’s get right into it.  

11 Different Types Of Hugs

According to studies (and there has been a lot of intense research on the topic), the receptors in our skin are so sensitive that any touch can spark off a reaction in our brains. Skin-to-skin contact is a potent instigator of the release of oxytocin. Now oxytocin – also known as the love hormone – is the thing responsible for making you feel mushy and loved up. This positive response can carry you through a large part of the day. 

Upon further investigation, I discovered the types of hugs and what they mean depends both on the amount of physical contact involved and the response elicited in the body. Body language i.e “the conscious and unconscious movements by which attitudes and feelings are communicated,” can indicate a lot more than we realize. Psychologists and experts have studied body language with reference to different hugs and categorized 11 types. These include: 

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1. The bear hug

The Bear Hug
The bear hug

I soon realize that the Bear Hug is considered one of the best types of hugs. Why you may ask? Well, when a person comes to you and enfolds you in his or her arms, holds you tight, and squeezes you for a while, the feeling can be indescribable. Bear Hugs are types of intimate hugs that suggest a healthy relationship. One which is full of strong positive and reciprocal feelings. While this is not always a type of romantic hug, bear hugs remind you that you are loved and appreciated. That someone out there has your back and can offer the emotional support you require. 

2. The full body hug

The Full Body Hug
The full-body hug

Much like the bear hug, a full-body hug is a strong and tight hug with full-body contact. Couples or close friends hugging like this may have intense eye contact and hold this tight embrace for a long time. Full-body hugs may or may not be one of the types of romantic hugs but they are not normally exchanged between colleagues or acquaintances.

Children love giving and getting full-body tight hugs and I suspect this arises from the need for skin-to-skin contact. Giving a child a full-body hug can calm him or her down and placate their feelings in no time. Try it out the next time your child is having a meltdown or getting agitated. It can work wonders toward making the child feel comfortable. 

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3. The long hug

The Long Hug
The long hug

According to doctors, a long hug is a hug that lasts longer than ten seconds. The longer the hug, the greater the impact on the nervous system. When you think of types of intimate hugs, long hugs definitely come to mind. If your romantic partner loves long hugs, odds are that he or she is developing feelings for you.

Best friends give each other long hugs when they need each other to lean on. Family members or those in a long-term relationship indulge in this type of hug when comfort and reassurance are required. If someone approaches you and embraces you like this, it may mean a silent cry for help. Take the time out to reciprocate and get to the bottom of the problem.

4. The London Bridge hug 

The London Bridge Hug
The London Bridge hug

The London Bridge Hug is a short, quick hug where two people’s upper bodies lean toward each other and touch. However, their lower bodies remain firmly apart indicating a formality in the relationship. It may look a bit awkward. This is the type of hug that is exchanged in a professional setting and could indicate some level of discomfort in either one party or both.

Body language experts reiterate that a London Bridge hug is a polite hug and mean that neither party really wants to get too close to the other. A word of warning – there is no possibility of a romantic relationship if someone hugs you like this.  

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5. The pickpocket hug

The Pickpocket Hug
The pickpocket hug

You’ve seen this type of couple around. And they either infuriate or enchant you with their public displays of affection. A Pickpocket Hug is the type of intimate hug when partners walk around with their hands tucked into each other’s back pockets. This type of cuddle hug occurs when a couple is very comfortable with each other. They may walk silently but are still in touch with each other without talking. The signs are clear here that the physical relationship between the two is strong and mutual. This also rates high on the types of hugs guys like. 

6. The straddle hug 

The Straddle Hug 
The straddle hug

Every Hollywood romantic movie has at least one scene with a straddle hug. In this type of hug, usually, the feminine partner wraps her legs around the other. A straddle hug can be done either in bed or while standing up. It can even be a hug from behind or a back hug. 

It’s the epitome of intimacy in a relationship and passion. This is considered a type of romantic hug that is a prelude to something sexual for sure. Straddle hugs indicate trust and comfort and a wonderful physical connection. No surprise, men rate this type of hug from a woman as the best type of hugs. 

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7. The quick hug

The Quick Hug
The Quick Hug

A quick hug is just what it says it is. A quick lean-in with body contact that ends almost as quickly as it begins. It could even be a perfunctory hug from behind. It can be exchanged between colleagues, friends, relatives, and even couples. Though, if you are a couple and only exchanging quick hugs, there may be problems afoot in your relationship. I would check up on that.

A quick hug (also known as a polite hug) is also indicative that the people involved are not really comfortable or invested in each other. You could call this type of interaction a more socially expected one rather than one with any real impact or meaning. 

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8. The slow dance hug

The Slow Dance Hug
The slow dance hug

If you indulge in a Slow Dance Hug also known as the Waist Hug or Sexual Hug, there is enough romantic tension between you and your partner to light up a room. In this style of hugging, the guy wraps his arms around his loved one’s waist. The other partner holds him around his neck and draws him close. This hug exudes joy and love and can be considered a stepping stone to a more intimate relationship. Men rate this type of tight hug from women as the most pleasurable. 

9. The side hug

The Side Hug
The side hug

Also referred to as the Buddy Hug, the Side Hug is a relaxed expression of comfort. Generally, a short, sweet, fun hug, it happens when a person next to you leans in and wraps an arm around your shoulder or waist. People also hug this way when posing for photos. How do you tell if this hug is romantic?

I hate to disappoint you here but this is no frisson of flirtation but rather an expression of a good mood. If a girl or boy hugs you this way, take it from me, it is one of the signs they are not into you and they see you just as a friend with no romantic feelings involved. 

10. The flirty hug

The Flirty Hug
The flirty hug

According to the experts, this is how you give a flirty hug – “Wrap your arms around your partner’s neck, lean your head on his chest, or hug her with one arm and draw her close.” A flirty hug may also entail stroking a person’s arms, a tight back hug, or nuzzling their neck when leaning in. This is one of the body language signs they are in love with you and won’t mind being intimate with you.

All these modalities indicate the need to get closer and show your interest in the other person. You don’t need to be an expert to know that such types of hugs from a woman or a man are confirmation that the person is very into you and wants to take these intimate hugs to the next level. 

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11. The heart-to-heart hug

The Heart-to-Herat Hug
The heart-to-heart hug

When you see a person you love and care about, you may raise your arms wide open, maintain eye contact, draw the person in close, and hold the hug for a while. This full-contact hugging can end with a short pat on the back or a shoulder rub. The intense eye contact attraction continues even post the hug. Supposedly highly restorative, this alignment of the heart can calm a person’s energy and increase serotonin levels making both parties happier. Win-win!

Key Pointers

  • Hugs can be categorized according to their length and the amount of body contact between two people 
  • Not all types of hugs are romantic or intimate, some can be friendly or simply reassuring and supportive 
  • Hugs are good for mental, physical, and emotional health 
  • It has been scientifically proven that hugging and being hugged can reduce stress and improve sleep 

It seems an inevitable conclusion then that hugs are good for you (and me). The flooding of the body with love hormones improves overall health and longevity. This simple act of touching can improve and initiate conversations and communication leading to lower stress and more happiness. After reading all about how even normal hugs can lower your blood sugar and moderate your heart rate, I realize the importance of touch to all human relationships (and not just romantic ones). Let the hugs commence! 


1. What are the different types of hugs?

As seen, there are many varieties of hugs. A lot depends on the duration of the hug, how much of the body is in contact with the other, and the body language of the person receiving the hug. Not all hugs are enjoyable. For example, certain hugs like the London Bridge Hug may be an awkward hug or a polite half hug one done out of duress or social mores. The Bear Hug or the Flirty Hug has the same meaning – that of a deeper relationship between the two people. A Heart-to-heart Hug can be just the empathetic response one needs when distraught or emotional. 

2. What do different types of hugs mean?

According to psychologists and intimacy experts, the types of hugs and what they mean no matter whether you are the giver or receiver can tell a lot about your relationship with the other person. Research shows that Side Hugs or Quick Hugs are signs of a formal connection or could just be friendly hugs with newly met acquaintances. On the other hand, Full Body Hugs, Sexual Hugs, or Straddle Hugs are definite signs of sexual attraction and are not exchanged between friends, no matter how close. Hugs can tell you a lot about the trust and comfort levels in a partnership or the support and sympathy amongst close friends. 

3. How long should a hug last?

A recent study by Science magazine showed us the optimal hugging mode. According to the website, several volunteers (including close friends, strangers, romantic partners, and families) hugged and were hugged in a variety of permutations and combinations. The overwhelmingly positive response was to hugs that lasted between 5 to 10 seconds long. There was also a preference for arms being crisscrossed around each other. This position provided both partners with the maximum gratification and scored high on the feel-good factor scale.

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