origin unknown It has been attributed to the old French conter fleurette, which means "to (try to) seduce" by the dropping of flower petals, that is, "to speak sweet nothings".
- Date: 1580
- 1 : to move erratically : flit
- 2 a : to behave amorously without serious intent
- b : to show superficial or casual interest or liking <flirted with the idea>; also : experiment <a novelist flirting with poetry>
- 3 : to come close to reaching or experiencing something —used with with <flirting with disaster>
Flirting is a common form of social interaction whereby one person obliquely indicates a romantic or sexual interest towards another. It can consist of conversation, body language, or brief physical contact. It may be one-sided or reciprocated (encouraged) with intentions of getting to know that person on a higher level.
Flirting may involve speaking and acting in a way that suggests greater intimacy than is generally considered appropriate to the relationship (or to the amount of time the two people have known each other), without actually saying or doing anything that breaches any serious social norms. This may be accomplished by communicating a sense of playfulness or irony. Double entendres, with one meaning more formally appropriate and another more suggestive, may be used.
While some of the subconscious signs are universal across cultures, flirting etiquette varies significantly across cultures which can lead to misunderstandings. There are differences in how closely people should stand (proxemics), how long to hold eye contact, and so forth.
For example, for many western cultures one very common flirting strategy includes eye contact. In these cultures, it is said that a look can say a million words. However, eye contact can have a very different meaning in some Asian countries and Muslim countries. In the latter, eye contact is not allowed between men and women as it is considered as "adultery of the eyes" according to the Islam. Men however may stare at Western women in such countries who might get in trouble if returning the glance. This act may mean that she is sexually interested instead of just flirting. Furthermore, Chinese and Japanese women are not expected to initiate eye contact which would be considered rude and disrespectful.
The distance between two people is also important when flirting. People from the "contact cultures" such Mediterranean or Latin American may feel comfortable with closer distances whereas a British or Northern European person will need more space. Touching, especially of the hand or arm, is also part of flirting. However, for Muslims, physical contact between men and women, except husband and wife or close family, is totally forbidden.