n. Feelings of relatedness and affection between two people, particularly a mother and a child, caused by hugging, touching, and other forms of physical contact.

Example Citation:
Cathedrals of the Flesh, by Alexia Brue (Bloomsbury; $24.95). This entertaining picaresque chronicles the author's mostly naked reconnaissance of the world's public baths, from cavernous marble Turkish hamams and smoky Helsinki saunas to militantly hot Moscow banyas and a New York bathhouse of dubious hygiene. ... Brue's depiction of herself as a bumbling innocent abroad isn't entirely believable, but her approach to other cultures is refreshingly humble, and her devotion to the pleasures of bathing with strangers makes a seductive case for "skinship," in which, naked together in the same water, "you do away with all the normal social barriers in life."
—"The Critics: Briefly Noted," The New Yorker, January 20, 2003

Earliest Citation:
Kawabata said it was sad that the nation is losing the "skinship" of public bathing. "Some children on school trips to Tokyo who come here even enter the bath with their pants on, because they've never taken a communal bath and are embarrassed," he said. "Young people don't have a chance to learn the social manners to be gained from bathing together."
—Jim Abrams, "Communal Baths Being Sunk By High Costs, Affluence," The Associated Press, September 15, 1982

Wasei eigo ("Japan English") is the Japanese term for English words that are either coined in Japan or imported from English and "Japanized" (for example, recipient becomes "reshipiento"; computer becomes "konpyuta"). Skinship (sukinshippu in Japan) is an example of a Japanese-coined English word. I thought this term was relatively new, but at the last minute I found the following citation which claims the word is quite old:

Skinship is a Japanese/English word developed during a World Health Organization meeting in Japan in 1940. It describes the physical closeness between a mother and her child. When a child receives an abundance of skinship, the child is better able to handle stressful situations and will mature into an emotionally stable adult.
—Debbie Treijs, "Japanese skinship; healthy touching between parent and child," Mothering, September 1, 1999

Note that the World Health Organization wasn't established until 1948, so I'm not sure how reliable this citation is. Word Spy subscriber Tom Gally informs me that the earliest Japanese citation in Nihon Kokugo Daijiten, a 14-volume dictionary similar in scope to the OED, is from 1971.

Related Words: