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Definition: light tickling

Pronunciation: KNIS-me-sis


Knismesis is a scientific term coined by the psychologists Arthur Allin and G. Stanley Hall in 1897. I could not find what made them name light tickling by the word knismesis.

Why this word?

As I am constantly on the search for new words to write about, I was quite surprised to  learn that there are actual words for different degrees of tickling. Knismesis is the feather-like tickling, the type of tickling that does not evoke laughter but mainly makes you want to scratch and itch… The feeling of a bug climbing on your leg is the best example for knismesis.

Gargalesis is the harder sort of tickling, the sort that makes you laugh out loud (lol) or cry (that would be me- I hate it) or cry with laughter.

On this note I feel I should say something general about being ticklish- this physical response in visible with so many animals (not only human beings!); you can even find some data online claiming that if you tickle a great white shark just under the tip of his nose- he will enter a deep state of hypnotic trance (and will not eat you).

How to use the word knismesis in a sentence?

I have to admit- it is not easy to use.

“I had a very irritating knismesis after that thing climbed in me… I couldn’t stop itching!”

“Next time you meet a great white shark, you should tickle the tip of his nose, leading the shark to a trance-like state of mind. Then swim for your life”.


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Written by Victoria Sheinkin

Victoria Sheinkin is a writer, content editor, translator and chief editor for Speaking three and a half languages, she holds two BAs from the Tel Aviv university- Communication and jounalism, English literature and linguistics.


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