The origin of…Lip

“For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others; for beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness; and for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone.” Audrey Hepburn


Right after we are born we start using our lips when sucking at the breast/bottle. The skill of being able to suckle is so fundamental to our survival that it is called a primitive reflex and almost all mammals have this reflex. The lips are essential when sucking to maintain a tight seal so that the infant can swallow. The sucking reflex, together with the rooting reflex, allows infants to breastfeed. Lips are also important in eating food, allowing us to chew and swallow with our mouths closed.

Additionally, lips are used when communicating, whether that is speech or non-verbal communication. Lips are used for articulation, like the formation of the sounds p, b, m, f, v and w. In non-verbal communication, lips are used to smile, to show our teeth or to frown.

Kissing would not be possible if we would not have lips. Although it is not universal, it is a phenomenon in like 90% of cultures (for example, the Papuans, Somals and the Eskimos do not kiss). In cultures without kissing people have other ways of being intimate with their partners, like licking, sucking, blowing or rubbing the partner´s face.
Researcher Gordon Gallup found out that whether someone is considered to be a good kisser is based on chemical cues, taste and smell. And good kissers are more likely to have sex, thus increasing their chances of producing offspring. In this way, kissing is an important part in determining whether someone will be a good partner.
Kissing could also be a biological thing, seen in other species like chimpanzees and bonobos. It may have originated from the primate behavior of pre-chewing food and giving that to the offspring, like chimpanzee mothers do. They chew food and press their lips to those of their babies to pass on the food.

Lips are very sensitive thanks to the high number of nerve endings and they are an erogenous zone. They have a relatively big space in the part of the brain, the postcentral gyrus, where sensations from the body are sent to be processed.
Sexual psychologists have found that all over the world men find a woman with full lips more sexually attractive than lips that are thinner. A woman´s lips are seen as a biological indicator of a woman’s health and fertility. A woman using lipstick (or having her lips filled) is an attempt to take advantage of this fact by creating the illusion that she is more fertile and healthy than she actually is.

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1. either one of the two soft parts that surround the mouth
2. the edge of a cut or hole
3. the edge of a container especially where it is slightly spread out (source: Merriam Webster).

The English word lip comes from Old English lippa, from Proto-Germanic *lepjon from Proto Indo European *leb-, to lick/lip.
Dutch lip has the same origins.
Spanish labio and Italian labbro come from Latin labium, from the Indo Eureopan root *leb, to hang down loosely/lip.

Lip in other languages:
Dutch: de lip
Spanish: el labio
Italian: il labbro (pl. le labbra)


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