Winking: Why we do it, what it means (2024)

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By Autumn Sprabary

Why do we wink? What does a wink mean?

Much like a picture is worth a thousand words, a wink can have a thousand meanings.

A subtle wink has been making people swoon since long before Elvis perfected the gesture, but winks aren’t always a sign of flirtation. In fact, the meaning of a wink can be completely different depending on culture and context.

That arguably makes the wink the most ambiguous gesture used in communication. ;) or 😉

In this article, you’ll learn how and why we wink, the various meanings of a wink around the world (flirty, fun and creepy) and what to do if you’re winking uncontrollably.

Let’s get started…

Why do we wink?

Because the act is so subtle and takes on many meanings, the origin of winking is unknown.

Winking: Why we do it, what it means (1)

We wink to show affection, to spark a laugh, to share an inside secret and for so many other reasons. We wink in person, in emails and in text messages.

The Winking Face emoticon was approved as part of Unicode 6.0 in 2010 and added to Emoji 1.0 in 2015, according to (yes, that’s a thing).

How we wink (the science behind the wink)

The act of winking involves contracting the orbicularis oculi muscle, which receives signals from the facial motor nucleus. If the connection between these two hubs is too weak, then no amount of practice will pay off with a successful wink — it’s impossible.

Not everyone can wink, and some people can wink with one eye and not the other.

Pop star and overall queen Rihanna shocked the world when it was discovered that she could not wink.

Being able to wink with one eye but not the other is referred to as ocular dominance.

How does ocular dominance differ from writing with a dominant hand or walking with a dominant foot? The two are governed by different parts of the brain. Your ocular dominance is governed by the part of the brain that controls your field of vision.

WHEN WAS YOUR LAST EYE EXAM? Find an eye doctor and book an exam.

What does a wink mean?

A wink is just a wink, they say, but in reality that rarely is the case. A wink can be fun, teasing, flirty and — depending on the one doing (or receiving) the winking — unsettling.

The meaning of a wink depends on the context, the surroundings and most of all, the two people involved. It’s a shared communication.

A wink can be appreciated or inappropriate, depending on the circ*mstances, timing and the relationship between the person doing the winking and the one who is winked at.

In some cases, a wink may not be a wink at all, but rather a facial tic or an eye twitch caused by stress, alcohol or any number of things.

SEE RELATED: How important is eye contact in communication?

Why is winking flirty?

There’s a reason why your heart flutters when a potential suitor sends a wink your way.

Research shows that when humans find something exciting or arousing, their pupils dilate and their blinking will increase. This is the body’s response to the brain saying “more please” — excessive blinking and dilated pupils allow the eyes to take in more of what they find pleasing and send it to the brain.

Winking: Why we do it, what it means (2)

Winking at someone as a means of flirtation plays off of excessive blinking, because winking intentionally communicates that the sight of someone is exciting to you.

But what’s considered flirty in one country may be seen as rude or vulgar. If you’re a world traveler, this next section is for you. You don’t want to send the wrong signal with your wink.

What winking means in different cultures

Cultures around the world have developed their own interpretations for the wink and, as expected, they're all over the map.

Western culture — Western society has embraced the gesture and used it to communicate everything but the kitchen wink. ;) So much so, that common phrases were created to provide context for different winking situations, like “nudge nudge, wink wink” to indicate that you and another person are sharing an inside joke, or “to catch 40 winks” to describe taking a nap.

Winking: Why we do it, what it means (3)

Western culture winks require more context than in other cultures, because they can mean anything from flirtation or encouragement to mockery or malice. For instance, after the Civil War, cadets at West Point Military Academy used winking to help each other cheat on tests. These days, winking is used in American sports to communicate specific instructions to teammates.

Latin America — Keeping things simple (and steamy), winking is used exclusively to communicate romantic or sexual interest.

West Africa — In Nigeria, it is a sign of disrespect for a child to be in the same room as a guest, so parents will wink at the child to dismiss them from the room when visitors are present.

India — There’s a fine line for winking in Indian culture. It’s seen as a sly or flirtatious act when done between husband and wife or boyfriend and girlfriend, but as inappropriate or insulting if done to someone you’re not in a relationship with.

Australia — Taking a sharp turn in meaning, winking in Australian culture is considered rude and too suggestive, especially when done by a man to a woman.

Asia — Winking is considered a vulgar gesture in Asian cultures so unless you’re looking for a fight, keep your winks to yourself.

When a wink is not a wink, but an eye twitch

Winking isn’t always something that you “just do.” When stress gets the better of you, it can cause facial twitching, which can appear as unintentional binge winking (get it —“binge winking?”) ;) ;) ;) ;).

There are natural remedies that can eliminate those symptoms. Reducing caffeine intake; practicing meditation, yoga or light exercise; and stimulating your imagination with reading, working on a puzzle or drawing/coloring can reduce your stress and the facial twitches that accompany it.

SEE RELATED: Eye twitching: Causes and treatments

Winking habits in pets

All pet owners have been there: You’re sitting on the couch, looking at your half-asleep dog or cat, and just when you believe they can’t get more perfect, they slowly wink at you and you think, “I don’t deserve this angel.” Believe it or not, winks from animals have just as much intention and meaning as winks from humans.

Cats When cats wink or blink at you, it’s considered the highest compliment. Referred to as a “cat kiss,” winking from cats communicates that they see you as trustworthy and they’re comfortable in your presence. In the most nonchalant cat-like fashion, they’re letting you know they love you. The coolest part is that they interpret a wink or blink the same way, so feel free to give your cat a slow wink to send them some love.

Winking: Why we do it, what it means (4)

Dogs — Although many dog owners choose to believe their pup’s wink is meant to be a cute little message, it’s actually a sign of non-aggression. Unlike humans, dogs don’t rely on facial expressions to communicate, so extended eye contact is viewed as aggression and a challenge of dominance. Because your dog doesn’t want to fight you, they wink in submission. So a wink from your dog may not necessarily be a sign of admiration, but of respect, which is still heartwarming.

SEE RELATED: Eye Discharge in Cats and Eye Discharge in Dogs

So should you wink or not?

Winking in the right time, the right place and the right circ*mstances can be a wonderful thing. It could be the spark that kindles a romance. A shared wink among friends is confirmation of an inside joke or common bond.

But beware of sending the wrong message with your wink. A wink at work may not be appreciated, while a wink from your pet is always encouraging. A wink from someone on the train or bus can be creepy. And a wink in the wrong country to the wrong person can change the mood in the blink — or wink — of an eye.

READ NEXT: Can eye movements indicate lying?

Page published on Friday, January 3, 2020

Winking: Why we do it, what it means (2024)


Why are you winking meaning? ›

/wɪŋk/ C2. to close one eye for a short time as a way of greeting someone or showing friendliness, sexual interest, etc., or of showing that you are not serious about something you have said: Laura winked at me as Stephen turned his back. For a second I thought he was being serious, but then he winked at me.

Why do we wink? ›

What we mean by the word 'wink' is to close one eye briefly as a way of greeting someone or showing friendliness, affection or sexual attraction, or showing that you are not serious about something you have just said. So you can praise someone and wink at them when they turn their back.

What do winks usually mean? ›

Sometimes a wink indicates a joke, a secret, or affection — and sometimes it just means you got something in your eye. Whenever your jokester uncle winks at you, it's like a private signal letting you know that the next thing he says will be a tall tale.

What does a smile and a wink mean? ›

Emoji Meaning

A yellow face with a slight smile or open mouth shown winking, usually its left eye. May signal a joke, flirtation, hidden meaning, or general positivity. Tone varies, including playful, affectionate, suggestive, or ironic. Not to be confused with the more mischievous or sexual 😏 Smirking Face.

What does 😜 mean in texting? ›

😜 Winking Face with Tongue

Often conveys a sense of fun, excitement, wackiness, buffoonery, or joking.

What does 😉 mean in texting? ›

😉 Winking Face emoji

Though it's often used to flirt, this emoji is also a useful way to playfully joke or to silently let the reader in on a secret. It can also be used to hint at desirable outcomes or to prod someone to take a particular action.

What does it mean when a boy sends you a 😉? ›

The 😉 is a universal symbol for flirting.

If someone sends you a 😉 with a message that makes your heart flutter, chances are they like you! This emoji is a subtle suggestion that someone's feeling affectionate.

How long should a wink last? ›

Typically, clients get top up fills every 2-3 weeks, however some clients prefer to replace their full set every 4-6 weeks. In order to qualify for a fill, you must have 40% of your Wink lashes remaining otherwise you will be rebooked for a full set.

Is a wink intimate? ›

For many people, a wink is a flirtatious gesture, a form of eye contact that creates a sense of collusion and intimacy between two people. This is probably the most common interpretation of the wink, especially between consenting, mutually attracted adults.

What does winking mean for men? ›

Although it doesn't have a specific meaning of “hello”, winking can be a way of simply acknowledging and connecting with someone. The same goes for when a guy winks at you when saying bye. It's a way of saying with his body language, “take care” or “see ya later”.

What happens when you wink? ›

Here seems like a good place to define the terms: A wink, or one-eyed blink, happens when you contract a facial muscle called the orbicularis oculi, which controls eyelid movement.

What is meaning of wink of an eye? ›

(idiomatic) instantaneously, extremely quickly quotations ▼

How do you flirt with a wink? ›

Establish eye contact: With both eyes first then wink. Let them notice you before you make your move. It s important that you first establish a long eye contact and then when the time is just right, wink, smile and slowly look away.

Is winking charming? ›

Winking can be a flirtatious gesture, but it's not always meant to be sexually suggestive, Givens explains. “Winking packs a lot of different meanings,” he says. “[It can be] something you do to build rapport. It's a friendly gesture, like laughter.

What does a double wink mean? ›

Double wink

Like a single wink but more emphatic, two winks in a row may be used by the sender as a subtle way to imply that something said by the sender, immediately beforehand, was "sneaky", "tricky", "misleading", or "untrue" to the receiver.

What does it mean when a girl sends 😋? ›

With its smiley eyes and face, the 😋 emoji is a playfully animated emoji that says, “Hey, I kinda like you.” You may see this tongue-out emoji at the end of a sweet compliment or paired with other flirtatious emojis like a 😉. “You're cute 😋😉” “I can't help but get all flushed around you 😋”

What does 😇 mean in text from a girl? ›

The 😇 (angel) emoji may mean someone is flirting with you.

If someone is hitting on you on Snapchat or texting you flirty messages, they may add this emoji to show how sweet and angelic they find you. Alternatively, they may use the emoji to playfully deny their message's more suggestive meaning. "You're so pretty.

What does 😛 mean from a girl in text? ›

😛 Face with Tongue emoji

The face with tongue emoji means a few different things. It's playful, cheeky, sassy, and can imply a joke, or a bit of lasciviousness.

What does 🌝 mean from a girl? ›

A 🌝 can be a confession about embarrassment.

The 🌝 resembles the small, tight smile people make when a situation gets a little awkward. Whether you're hit with a not-so-great flashback or just recently had an awkward encounter, a 🌝 helps you grin and bear it.

What does 👅 mean in texting from a girl? ›

The 👅 (tongue) emoji is also a sexual innuendo.

People send this emoji to flirt over text or even try some sexting—if you see 👅 in a steamy text from your date or significant other, they're referring to oral sex.

What does 😎 mean from a guy? ›

What does 😎 Face With Sunglasses emoji mean? The Face With Sunglasses emoji 😎 depicts a smiling face wearing sunglasses. It is commonly used to convey someone or something is cool, chill, easy-going, or carefree. It's also used to express appreciation or approval and to stand in for the sentiments of OK or awesome.

What does ❤ mean from a girl? ›

It can be used to express gratitude, love, happiness, hope, or even flirtatiousness.

What does 3 mean in text? ›

What does <3. mean? <3 is a typographical representation of a heart, used to convey love and similar warm feelings online and often evoking early internet culture.

What are 3 signs that a boy likes you? ›

How To Tell if a Guy Likes You
  • He is touching you.
  • He remembers small details about you.
  • You two are social media friends.
  • He gives you eye contact.
  • He makes an effort in the conversations you have.
  • He's using “alpha” body language.
  • He asks if you have a boyfriend.
  • He gets jealous when you talk to other guys.
Dec 29, 2022

What are signs a guy likes you? ›

22 Subtle Signs A Guy Likes You, From Dating Experts
  • He leans toward you during conversation. ...
  • He angles his body toward you in the room. ...
  • He finds small ways to compliment you. ...
  • He makes eye contact. ...
  • He steals a glance at you. ...
  • He singles you out in a group. ...
  • He seems drawn to you in the room.
Nov 26, 2021

How do you know if boy has a love on you? ›

  • He doesn't look at his phone when you're around. ...
  • He texts you pictures of inside jokes and things that remind him of you. ...
  • He wants you to hang out with his friends. ...
  • He tries to hold you while you're sleeping. ...
  • He wants to know you got home safe. ...
  • He cancels plans for you. ...
  • He understands your emotional needs.
Jul 5, 2016

Does winking make you more attractive? ›

If you've spotted someone attractive from across the room, the most subtly suggestive message you can send is a quick wink. Patti Wood, another body language expert, also adds that winking softens the otherwise threatening communication of extended eye contact.

Does winking turn you on? ›

It's why if you're at a crowded bar, happen to glance across the room, and an attractive stranger catches your eye and winks, your heart might beat faster. Winks are charged with sexual energy as well as a sense of desire.

How many times do we wink? ›

Human adults blink approximately 12 times per minute and one blink lasts about 1/3 s [2].

Can you make friends on wink? ›

No problem. On Wink, you can connect with so many people you have things in common with. Start swiping to meet your new besties! The fastest and safest way to chat with your new friends is to send a message right here on the app!

What does wink mean on dating site? ›

When you choose to “wink” at a man, that man will be notified how a woman picked him out and showed interest in him, and if he opens the “wink,” he will see you were the one who sent it. As you can imagine, sending a wink is a popular action among women using online dating websites.

How do you make friends wink? ›

If you swipe right on a user's photo and they swipe right on yours, you can add each as friends. You get a limited number of swipes per day by spending "gems," which you can earn by checking in on the app daily, sharing your friends' contact information, and sharing about the app on social media.

Who are you winking at meaning? ›

phrasal verb

winked at; winking at; winks at. Synonyms of wink at. : to pretend not to have seen or noticed (something) : to ignore. The city cops wink at the mayor's parking violations.

Is winking a trait? ›

Laterality of winking may not be a genetically determined trait, as bilateral, left unilateral, and right unilateral winking were roughly equally present in this group of mostly right-handed subjects.

Is there a difference between winking and blinking? ›

Wink is used figuratively to mean ignoring a transgression or pretending not to notice a transgression. The word wink is derived from the Old English word wincian, which means to blink quickly. Blink means to close both eyes and rapidly open them.

What does wink out mean? ›

Definition of wink (out) as in to end. to come to an end she mused that it was as if her affection for him had just winked out one day.

What does wink it off mean? ›

In this case, wink off means to close. It is not a common phrase, however. It probably comes from the motion of our eye when we wink, but it is more common to use "blink" rather than "wink". Regarding the open window on your computer screen, when you click the X in the upper right corner, the window closes.

How do you hint flirt? ›

Below are a few body language cues that often signal interest in someone, according to Boodram:
  1. Making eye contact.
  2. Smiling.
  3. Orienting your body toward the person you are flirting with (hips and feet facing them)
  4. Mirroring their movements.
  5. Catching their eye, averting your gaze, and then looking back again.
Mar 24, 2022

What does wink wink mean in texting? ›

/ˌwɪŋkˈwɪŋk/ said to show someone that what you are saying is a joke or a secret: It happens more often than you think, wink-wink, if you know what I mean.

What does the winking ❤ mean? ›

Across platforms, the emoji is fairly uniform in appearance: a yellow smiley with one winking eye and puckered mouth with a heart coming out of it, symbolizing a kiss.

Is winking rude? ›

In conclusion, the wink is one of the most ambiguous of the non-verbal signals, and in some cultures, such as China and India, is seen as rude and vulgar and should not be used. You should be aware that if you do wink, you have very little control over how it will be interpreted.

How do you wink someone? ›

To wink at someone, make eye contact with them, then lower one of your eyelids. You can also raise your cheek muscle while lowering your eyelid to close your eye completely. While you wink, try to avoid squinting with your open eye. Then, open your winking eye back up to finish.

What does not a wink mean? ›

to not sleep at all: I didn't sleep a wink last night with all that noise.

Does 😉 mean flirting? ›

The 😉 is a universal symbol for flirting.

If someone sends you a 😉 with a message that makes your heart flutter, chances are they like you! This emoji is a subtle suggestion that someone's feeling affectionate.

What does 😉 😏 mean? ›

As its official name reveals, 😏 Smirking Face represents the facial expression of a smirk. It's used to communicate a range of feelings, including smugness, self-confidence, self-indulgence, mischief, cheeky humor, and general satisfaction. 😏 Smirking Face especially implies, however, flirtation and sexual innuendo.

What does 🙃 mean from a guy? ›

What does 🙃 mean from a guy? This emoji often represents sarcasm and humor, and it's also an indication of awkwardness and frustration. Most guys include it in their messages mainly for these reasons.

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