Etymology
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caress (v.)
"bestow caresses upon, stroke or pat affectionately;" also "treat with fondness or kindness," 1650s, from French caresser, from Italian carezzare "to cherish," from carezza "endearment" (see caress (n.)). Related: Caressed; caressing.
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caress (n.)
1640s, "a show of endearment, display of regard," from French caresse (16c.), back-formation from caresser or else from Italian carezza "endearment," from caro "dear," from Latin carus "dear, costly, beloved" (from PIE root *ka- "to like, desire"). Meaning "affectionate stroke" attested in English from 1650s. Related to charity, cherish.
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neck (v.)
"to kiss, embrace, caress," 1825 (implied in necking) in northern England dialect, from neck (n.). Compare Middle English halsen "to embrace or caress affectionately, to fondle sexually," from hals (n.) "neck." Earlier, neck as a verb meant "to kill by a strike on the neck" (mid-15c.). Related: Necked.
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bill (v.2)
"to stroke beaks," as doves do, hence, of lovers, "caress fondly," 1590s, from bill (n.2)). Paired with coo at least since 1764; Century Dictionary [1902] defines bill and coo (by 1768) as "to kiss and caress and talk nonsense, as lovers." Related: Billed; billing.
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blandish (v.)
mid-14c., "to flatter," from Old French blandiss-, present participle stem of blandir "to flatter, caress," from Latin blandiri "flatter, soothe, caress, coax," from blandus "smooth-talking, flattering, alluring," perhaps from PIE root *mel- (1) "soft." OED reports it rare in 17c., 18c., and Johnson says he knows it only from Milton. Related: Blandished; blandishing.
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pet (v.)
1620s, "treat as a pet," from pet (n.1). Sense of "to stroke" is first found 1818. Slang sense of "kiss and caress" is from 1920 (implied in petting). Related: Petted.
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smooch (v.)
1932, alteration of dialectal verb smouch "to kiss" (1570s), possibly imitative of the sound of kissing (compare German dialectal schmutzen "to kiss"). An earlier alteration produced smudge (v.) "to kiss, caress" (1844). Related: Smooched; smooching. As a noun by 1942.
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cosset (v.)

1650s, "to fondle, caress, indulge, make a pet of," from a noun (1570s) meaning "lamb brought up as a pet" (applied to persons from 1590s), of uncertain origin. Perhaps [Skeat] from Old English cot-sæta "one who dwells in a cot" (see cote (n.) + sit (v.)). Related: Coseted; coseting. Compare German Hauslamm, Italian casiccio.

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fondle (v.)
1690s, "treat with indulgence and affection" (now obsolete), from fond (adj.) + frequentative ending. Or possibly from the obsolete verb fond "be fond, be in love, dote" (1520s), from the adjective or altered from earlier fon. Sense of "caress" first recorded 1796. As a noun from 1833. Related: Fondled; fondling (1670s as a past-participle adjective); fondlesome.
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flatter (v.)
c. 1200, flateren, flaterien, "seek to please or gratify (someone) by undue praise, praise insincerely, beguile with pleasing words," from Old French flater "to deceive; caress, fondle; prostrate, throw, fling (to the ground)" (13c.), probably from a Germanic source, perhaps from Proto-Germanic *flata- "flat" (from PIE root *plat- "to spread").

"Of somewhat doubtful etymology" [OED]. Liberman calls it "one of many imitative verbs beginning with fl- and denoting unsteady or light, repeated movement" (for example flicker, flutter). If it is related to flat the notion could be either "caress with the flat of the hand, stroke, pet," or "throw oneself flat on the ground" (in fawning adoration). The -er ending is unusual for an English verb from French; perhaps it is by influence of shimmer, flicker, etc., or from flattery.

Meaning "give a pleasing but false impression to" is from late 14c. Sense of "show (something) to best advantage" is from 1580s, originally of portraits. Related: Flattered; flattering.
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