I would like to find a word for when you hit someone, but in a playful "no hard feelings" kind of way.

Like when you see a friend, you slap them in the arm or whatever, or the sort of thing you would expect from a game like the circle game.

Something that conveys that the hit is not truly coming out of rage or intended to cause harm or damage.

I need this as I need to write about something and if I do 'I hit him on the arm', it could convey a much different message to the reader. Like there was some physical assault going on.

So which word(s) could I use instead?

  • The problem is that practically any single word (smack, swat, pat, slap) can be used in several different senses, with different connotations. You're probably stuck with using a multi-word phrase, unless you can rely on context to convey the full sense of the word.
    – Hot Licks
    Mar 2, 2020 at 22:26

3 Answers 3


The word pat can be used here, given by Lexico as


Touch quickly and gently with the flat of the hand.
he patted him consolingly on the shoulder


A quick, light touch with the hand.
Scotty gives Johnny a friendly pat on the arm before leaving the room

A pat means a friendly or reassuring touch and isn't easily confused with an assault.

The word pat is also used in the phrase

pat someone on the back
Express approval of or admiration for someone

and in this case it is used as a metaphor.

  • Thank you, pat does not correctly describe this, because it is a hit actually (like with a fist), but in a non-serious manner. Mar 2, 2020 at 12:00
  • 1
    The "slap" in your question, is not made with a fist, but with the palm of the hand, as in this answer. Mar 2, 2020 at 12:06

I think you would need to use an adverb or an adjective to describe the nature of the blow. We have many words that mean "to hit," but most don't convey that it was done in a loving manner unless another word is added. Even the term "love tap" can sometimes be used to say that disciplinary action was gentle. Try "playfully swatted," or "gave an affectionate swipe."


Love tap.

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/love%20tap Definition of love tap : a gentle blow

I would note that "love tap" seems to be used just as frequently to mean a gentle blow as it does to be sarcastically to mean "a hard punch".

For example: He was mouthing off to me so I gave him a little love tap and he went down like a sack of potatoes.

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