Flirting is non-physical sexual communication between two people to negotiate mutual attraction through body language and verbal tactics. It is an initiation ritual of human mating and consists of a playful sequence of reveals and challenges that serve to communicate, test, and amplify attraction. Revealing attraction is accomplished primarily through specific modes of body language that indicate contact readiness (hair flicking, eye contact, brief touching, open stances, proximity etc.) and vocal tone (pace, volume, intonation). Challenges (teasing, questions, qualifying, feigned disinterest) serve to increase tension, test intention and congruity.
Flirting may involve speaking and behaving in a way that suggests greater intimacy than is generally considered appropriate to the relationship or the period that they 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.
Ethologist Irenaus Eibl Eibesfeldt, found that in places as different as Africa and North America, women do the exact same prolonged stare followed by a head tilt away with a little smile. However, flirting does vary across cultures due to different modes of social etiquette such as how closely people should stand (proxemics), how long to hold eye contact, and so forth.
People flirt for a number of reasons. It is often used as a precursor for casual sex. Alternatively, some may see flirting as indicating interest in relationship. In other situations, it may be done simply for amusement, with no intention of developing any further relationship. This type of flirting sometimes faces disapproval from others, either because it can be misinterpreted as more serious, or it may be viewed as cheating if the person is already in a romantic relationship with someone else.
Origin and history
The origin of the word flirt is obscure. The Oxford English Dictionary (first edition) associates it with such onomatopoeic words as flit and flick, emphasizing a lack of seriousness; on the other hand, 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". While old-fashioned, this expression is still used in French, often mockingly, but the English gallicism to flirt has made its way and has now become an anglicism.
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