Intimacy what does it mean

Intimacy Definition & Meaning - Merriam-Webster

in·​ti·​ma·​cy ˈin-tə-mə-sē 


: the state of being intimate : familiarity


: something of a personal or private nature


  • belonging
  • chumminess
  • closeness
  • familiarity
  • inseparability
  • nearness

See all Synonyms & Antonyms in Thesaurus 

Example Sentences

the intimacy of old friends the intimacy of their relationship He felt he achieved a certain intimacy with her. The band liked the intimacy of the nightclub.

Recent Examples on the Web Our lack of access to healthy intimacy leaves many of us in a scarcity model of physical love and care. —Dr. Jenn Jackson, Essence, 12 Dec. 2022 There are so many people involved that actually getting back to having that intimacy of working … De Armas: Stillness. —Daniel D'addario, Variety, 9 Dec. 2022 While the song takes shape as a certain kind of confiding, this pair uncovers a closer if fleeting intimacy. —Siobhan Burke, New York Times, 4 Dec. 2022 In Lawrence’s book, her changed relationship with Clifford proves that the mind alone cannot sustain intimacy between a man and a woman. —Shirley Li, The Atlantic, 3 Dec. 2022 But the track’s devoid of the warmth and intimacy that makes a Christmas song truly great and classic. —Ben Flanagan | [email protected], al, 2 Dec. 2022 Hogg has a gift for building tension between people who share an intimacy that leaves many things unsaid. —Brandon Wilson, Chron, 1 Dec. 2022 Emancipation’s tone is defined by these jarring, abrupt shifts between softness and harshness, intimacy and violence. —Lovia Gyarkye, The Hollywood Reporter, 30 Nov. 2022 Hale doesn’t seem to have been entirely convinced by this line, and kept pushing for more conventional forms of intimacy and companionship. —Evan Kindley, The New Republic, 30 Nov. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'intimacy.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History

First Known Use

1641, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler

The first known use of intimacy was in 1641

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“ Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Dec. 2022.

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Kids Definition



in·​ti·​ma·​cy ˈint-ə-mə-sē 


: the state of being intimate


: something of a personal or private nature

shared little intimacies in their letters

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Nglish: Translation of intimacy for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of intimacy for Arabic Speakers

Britannica. com: Encyclopedia article about intimacy

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Intimacy Definition & Meaning | Dictionary.

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[ in-tuh-muh-see ]

/ ˈɪn tə mə si /

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noun, plural in·ti·ma·cies.

the state of being intimate.

a close, familiar, and usually affectionate or loving personal relationship with another person or group.

a close association with or detailed knowledge or deep understanding of a place, subject, period of history, etc.: an intimacy with Japan.

an act or expression serving as a token of familiarity, affection, or the like: to allow the intimacy of using first names.

an amorously familiar act; liberty.

sexual intercourse.

the quality of being comfortable, warm, or familiar: the intimacy of the room.

privacy, especially as suitable to the telling of a secret: in the intimacy of his studio.


2 closeness, familiarity, warmth, affection.

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Origin of intimacy

First recorded in 1635–45; intim(ate)1 + -acy

Words nearby intimacy

inthral, inthrone, inti, intifada, intima, intimacy, intimate, intimate borrowing, intimated, intimately, intimation Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022

Words related to intimacy

affection, confidence, confidentiality, familiarity, friendship, understanding, acquaintance, affinity, communion, experience, inwardness

How to use intimacy in a sentence

  • It’s a small enough group that a lot of intimacy can go on during the performance, and a large enough group that you can make a lot of sound and do a lot of different things.

    Chick Corea, versatile pianist who made jazz eclectic and electric, dies at 79|Matt Schudel|February 11, 2021|Washington Post

  • The intimacy of voice makes audio social media that much more appealing in the age of social distancing and isolation.

    The future of social networks might be audio|Tanya Basu|January 25, 2021|MIT Technology Review

  • So, as I was writing, rather than keeping a specific person or prototype in my mind, I tried to imagine if I could gather a group of Americans in my living room, and I wanted to replicate that sensation of intimacy and closeness in my poem.

    Amanda Gorman’s first political memory is her mother reading her Miranda Rights|Olivier Knox|January 20, 2021|Washington Post

  • This move by PepsiCo will not only reduce costs but will also enable PepsiCo to develop more significant customer intimacy and hold more customer data.

    Eight ways to align your customer acquisition strategy in 2021|Lidia Hovhannisyan|January 4, 2021|Search Engine Watch

  • The pictures were not pornographic, but we were embracing in them in a way that implied intimacy and would be uncomfortable trying to explain to my husband.

    What It Means When Your Wife Says She Slept With George Clooney|Eugene Robinson|December 8, 2020|Ozy

  • Miller realized he had a partner, another life, and, despite the intimacy she thought they had built, he was just another client.

    Sex, Suicide, and Homework: The Secret World of the Telephone Hotline|Tim Teeman|November 20, 2014|DAILY BEAST

  • It brings out the distance and doubt that festered within the proximate intimacy of the Marston family.

    Wonder Woman’s Creation Story Is Wilder Than You Could Ever Imagine|Tom Arnold-Forster|November 3, 2014|DAILY BEAST

  • One of the suits against Kelley charged her with defamation for calling Miller an “intimacy stalker” in her LiveJournal page.

    The Mystery Woman Who Tried to Outdo Dillinger|Michael Daly|September 29, 2014|DAILY BEAST

  • It is an advertising campaign, selling Dior and selling her, bathed in the false glow of intimacy.

    Celebrities, STFU About Your ‘Privacy’|Tim Teeman|September 24, 2014|DAILY BEAST

  • But the Beyoncé stage pictures are a ruse: they have an air of intimacy while telling us nothing of substance at all.

    Celebrities, STFU About Your ‘Privacy’|Tim Teeman|September 24, 2014|DAILY BEAST

  • There seemed the flavour of some strange authority in her that baffled all approach to the former intimacy.

    The Wave|Algernon Blackwood

  • The two enjoyed a mutual understanding from which he was excluded, a private intimacy that was spiritual, mental,— physical.

    The Wave|Algernon Blackwood

  • The remaining four tribes appear already to be united in firm friendship and intimacy with them.

    The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents, Vol. II: Acadia, 1612-1614|Various

  • This intimacy arose partly from association while fishing for Cod, which abound in these waters, and partly from trading in furs.

    The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents, Vol. II: Acadia, 1612-1614|Various

  • If your intimacy will allow it, speak of the fault upon another occasion, kindly and privately, or let it pass.

    The Ladies' Book of Etiquette, and Manual of Politeness|Florence Hartley

British Dictionary definitions for intimacy


/ (ˈɪntɪməsɪ) /

noun plural -cies

close or warm friendship or understanding; personal relationship

(often plural) euphemistic sexual relations

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Psychological intimacy - what is it? - N. Naritsyn, M. Naritsyna

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nine0002 Creation date: 07.10.2002
Update date: 02.19.2015

According to the definition of psychotherapist E. Berne, intimacy is "a person's sincere behavior free from games. As a rule, it does not lead to trouble unless some kind of game intervenes." Well, let's talk about what psychological games are and why people need them; how "real closeness" differs from the illusion of closeness and "pseudo-closeness"; do really close people always have to be together; and much more. nine0005

Speaking about the "theory of psychological intimacy", I will offer for starters two definitions given at one time by well-known psychotherapists. Eric Erickson used this concept in his works with the interpretation of "the ability of one person to take care of another, to share everything essential with him without fear of losing himself." And the author of the theory of transactions, Eric Berne, argued that psychological intimacy is “a game-free, sincere behavior of a person. It usually does not lead to trouble unless some kind of game intervenes.” nine0005

In Berne's understanding, a psychological game, as a rule, carries an element of deception, manipulation, competition, even if most often of the unconscious. And here we can offer a third criterion for the presence in a particular pair of psychological closeness: such closeness is the absence of a rigid hierarchy in the relationship, fixed roles and responsibilities, a “top-down” relationship.

If there are manipulative games in a couple, then they are played in order for one of the partners to receive, albeit unconsciously, a "win". And this means that the other person gets a loss. Which is hardly conducive to intimacy. nine0015 The presence of such opportunities, as it were, "does not allow you to relax", makes you always "keep ready to return the game" or keep track of the game of a partner / partner. Such a life together soon becomes very tiring. At a minimum, the sense of psychological security that is important with proximity is lost when coexisting.

The well-known psychotherapist V.V. Makarov often emphasizes that a family, a couple is created most often so that each of the spouses/partners is a kind of "psychotherapist" for the other: at least - support, rear in difficult times according to their capabilities and needs the other side (moreover, the roles of "helping" and "receiving help" are not fixed tightly and do not entail hierarchical constructions according to the "strong-weak" principle). But sometimes it happens that instead of a psychotherapeutic factor, existence in a couple becomes a traumatic factor. This also happens when “psychological intimacy” means something else, for example, dependence / co-dependence, the need for total control, a pronounced hierarchy, etc. nine0005

Very often, a kind of "commodity-consumer relations" in the worst sense of the word: according to the principle "you - to me, I to you" become an illusion of proximity. Here, everything seems to be said directly and without bluntness, but the presence of a reciprocal need of the second partner is by no means always taken into account. For example, a person somehow wants to keep a piece of his "self" in the union. And the second one objects to this and is almost even jealous of the first one for his personal thoughts and needs for solitude. And often, offended, he appeals specifically to closeness: "We are almost native people, and you again! .."

Here, alas, most often either the illusion of proximity, or a game of proximity. "I need this, so I let you do the same, and we will assume that the closeness between us is preserved and my need does not violate it." And in fact, it turns out that the second partner or partner does not need this "same" one, and therefore does not want to take it. But he needs something else, about which he cannot directly say or also does not want to and prefers to perform his manipulations with his first spouse.

In fact, psychological intimacy largely consists in the need and ability to discuss the intricacies of relationships with each other aloud. And the result of recognizing each other's needs will not be the manipulation of the partner with the help of this knowledge, but the mutual respect of needs. In addition, both close partners are ready for some kind of compromise, and they do not need to force each other to go for them with the help of the same games. And here, first of all, there is a desire to reduce intersecting transactions and intersecting interests. nine0015 By the way, in a psychologically close couple, the needs of each side are usually taken into account and options for their implementation are found - because both benefit from the feeling of comfort in this pair, and therefore both try to achieve this mutual feeling with minimal losses.

But the trouble is that most of our couples don’t have this particular benefit, and their understanding of intimacy on the principle of “well, that’s it, now you are mine / mine” implies precisely “exchange”: “Oh, you need to flirt, then I will flirt! Although I don’t need it for anything and I’ll get myself into continuous problems from this (to play the game “That’s what you got me to” later. Or in other words: “Oh, you need to flirt - please, and I will never do this so that I have a reason to play with you in an offended spouse (spouse) and accuse you of being an egoist (ka) ", etc. That is, there is no desire for both to feel comfortable , but there is a desire to "win" something at the expense of another. And if you want, people often have this very right to win that is called "closeness". But in fact, closeness is, first of all, mutual respect for individuality and mutual unwillingness to hurt each other And if someone needs something, they don't need to build bastions of excuses for it. 0005

Now about the other extreme: the so-called "complete intimacy", which many romantically inclined people love to dream about. Like, "they became so dear to each other that they completely grew together in souls," etc. In fact, this is very difficult, because a person always has at least his own unconscious and those needs that are formed at this level. It is especially difficult when, again, one of the partners seeks to "absorb the personality of the other" under the sauce of achieving intimacy (the option is that the person himself seeks to give his partner his individuality according to the principle "Now you answer for me"). nine0005

One of the possible markers of such an "illusion of closeness" is the situation when at least one of the partners in a couple uses the phrase "We love each other."

Yes, the feeling of intimacy is a mutual feeling, and it is usually difficult to say that "partner A is close to partner B, and partner B is not close to partner A." It's about the same. as "point A is five centimeters from point B. and point B is five kilometers from point A." But at the same time, intimacy is not a complete merger, it is a union of two independent personalities, and in this union, neither partner assumes the right to decide for the other. Therefore, in such a direct, confident form, conclusions about the feelings of the "second side" are usually not made. nine0005

In order to be close people, again, it is not necessary to necessarily "do everything only together." Proximity as a form of communication does not require constant being together almost by force. And it can easily happen that in one pair - really psychologically close! - one partner is sleeping and the other is preparing breakfast. And in the other, close only illusory or "one-sided", both will certainly go to the kitchen together (to the point that they cut bread together with one knife), because if they are separated even for a moment, they will immediately lose their "sense of closeness", requiring constant confirmation and proof. Sometimes such "closeness" is sarcastically called the "closeness of Siamese twins." nine0005

Of course, if really close people sometimes like to cut bread together with one knife for the sake of entertainment - who forbids them? But in "Siamese intimacy" such constant joint interaction becomes painful over time and no longer confirms the feeling of intimacy, but refutes it, turning into the same manipulative mutual game.
Close people go somewhere or do something together not because they have to (because they call themselves close), but because they want it and they can afford it. If circumstances force them to do something one by one, this is not perceived as a tragedy, and does not threaten the feeling of intimacy. nine0005

And to build intimacy, it is not at all necessary that partners have similar tastes and needs in everything. They may well coincide in general, but have different tastes in details: one, for example, may love semolina (Picasso, jazz ...), and the other mayonnaise (Aivazovsky, country . ..). And this will in no way be a cause for contention.

And the attempt to "get into a person's heart and stay there, while bringing order there" - alas, not closeness. An attempt to pester "Tell me what you are thinking about now, we are close people" is also not intimacy. It's more of a "not a single thought out of my control" manipulation. Proximity implies precisely respect for needs, and not mutual destruction and merging. nine0005

Here is the most primitive illustration.
Husband sat down to watch football.
Of course, he does not want his wife close to him to sit next to him and saw him for it.
What does he want? So that she would sit next to her and shout "goal"?
Not always. Sometimes he wants her to mind her own business and give him the opportunity to watch the match alone (or go to friends for this time). The main thing is that his need be understood and, if possible, not condemned.
And if the wife wants to watch some kind of "movie about love", she does not always want her husband to sit next to her and ask questions - maybe she wants to watch it alone. Just to let her do it and not scold her for it. nine0015 It is clear that if a husband watches football instead of an important business meeting for the family, this is already more difficult. But if there is closeness between the spouses and precisely global common goals, in this case the husband will go to the meeting, but he won’t remember about football. But if there are no global goals, but there is a declaration of them, then the husband’s car will break down along the way, and the train will leave, etc.
And most importantly: as soon as between spouses there is a need for control on the one hand, disobedience on the other and confrontation on both sides, it is already difficult to talk about intimacy. Solid psychological games begin. nine0005

But what if one of the partners needs games for some reason at certain moments in their life?

Often I have to tell about one elderly storekeeper who tirelessly put her own, familiar order on the shelves with goods. She spared no effort rearranging everything anew "as it suits her", even when her shift ended and she went home for two days. It turned out that a woman of pre-retirement age was desperately afraid of seeming unnecessary and strove so that at least in this warehouse nothing could be found without her. This is how women often put things in order in the kitchen - so that a man, if he happens to poke his head to cook scrambled eggs for himself, will not find anything without it. Therefore, the products are in the most "illogical" places, and she answers all the questions of her husband: "But it's more convenient for me." Maybe she really is more comfortable that way. Only she herself can not understand - why. However, if there was closeness, the products would lie where it is convenient for both, since both have to cook; at least there was no such perception "he encroached on my territory", there would not be this competitive, protective component in behavior. In other words, there would be no need to receive this hidden benefit "I'm more important than you at least in the kitchen." nine0005

And perhaps we can offer such a "recognition of the game": if somewhere in communication you stumble upon a persistent illogicality, then most likely there is a game going on. Conscious or unconscious, it doesn't matter. Perhaps that is why psychological manipulative games are so widespread in our life that a person uses logic in his behavior much less often than it is commonly thought.

And what is important: any psychological closeness in no way implies a rejection of games. Rather, there is a gradual departure "as unnecessary" of these games from the communication of close people. For the formation of intimacy actually goes through games, but again - through constructive ones that do not cause pain, and carry more of a training load than a control-suppressive-manipulative one. nine0005

But even this - "gradual care of uselessness" - is also not entirely true. Here, the expression "freedom from games" may be more appropriate: that is, games in a close pair can be applied "at will", and most likely for mutual pleasure, for the exchange of additional, specific, veiled strokes, etc. And not at all in order for one to "win" over the other. It is closeness that allows you to gradually give this "win without a fight" to another: "Do you want this? Please take it. " Here, it is precisely the mutual desire to abandon mutual hidden manipulations that is already felt by both as a kind of deception that peeps through and becomes important. nine0005

And if the game has to be broken, abandoned, and this hurts, then this person still needs the game as a manipulative or protective function, and you can’t take it away from him until you figure it out - and it’s clear that raping "let's figure it out" also useless, this readiness should be allowed to ripen; this is also the time from which the establishment of intimacy is formed.

Psychological intimacy in itself can be built quite complicated: because each partner has his own past personal experience with his pain points, complexes, fears, censorship, etc. As they say - "when two meet, each brings his own suitcase, and not empty." Moreover, in the course of the lesson, it was announced that almost the main condition for the successful building of psychological intimacy is the coincidence of life attitudes at the censorship level. And/or sufficient flexibility in this area. nine0005

Also, in matters of psychological intimacy, it is desirable to avoid binarity. For example, there is often an opinion that one should strive for one hundred percent psychological intimacy, since all other relationships are inferior. However, any evaluation in a conversation about relationships (especially about strangers) is hardly legitimate. And if both partners are satisfied with the relationship in which they are currently located, then this means that this is the optimal state for them at the moment. And if they want to get closer, they will do it, but not because they are told from outside, but because they want to. One might even say - for perfectionists! – that "100% psychological intimacy" is a spherical horse in a vacuum. And if we imagine a straight line, at one end of which is this most complete closeness, and at the other end - the relationship of completely strangers, then each individual pair is between these states at its point: closer either to one end or to the other. nine0005

In general, there is no complete enough psychological intimacy right away. It builds up gradually, while the partners go towards each other. And you can meet halfway in the process of mutual study even all your life, because people change .. That is, intimacy has no final. You can't say "I've finished studying my partner/partner, now we are close people and know everything about each other, now we have nowhere to study each other to get closer." As soon as a thick line was drawn under the "study of the partner" - there was a movement in the opposite direction, a divergence. Intimacy is precisely the need to constantly listen to a partner / partner, to constantly monitor his / her reactions, to think about his / her needs, moreover, it is extended over time: after all, a person changes over time, both “observed” and "watching". And most importantly - this study is not difficult, but rather interesting. After all, each personality is infinite, like the cosmos, and just as it can be extremely exciting to explore the depths of space, it can also be exciting and exciting to study the person with whom you want to build this very psychological intimacy. Especially if he studies you in the same way, and both of you have the opportunity to discuss your observations, share them for the joint benefit, and so on. nine0005


E-Doctor orders most relevant to the article:
I want to trust my loved ones
I want to trust my loved ones
I want my girlfriend back
I want my wife back
I want my woman's love back
I want my wife's love back
I want I want my husband's love back
I want my husband's love back
I want my husband back
I want my relationship back

Topics: partnership, psychological intimacy, transactional analysis. nine0005

© Nikolay Nikolaevich Naritsyn
psychotherapist, psychoanalyst


What is intimacy and what is it eaten with

emotional intimacy is not an easy thing. Translating "Intimacy" into Russian is another task. Because the direct and obvious translation is "intimacy". But in this word for most people there is an obvious pointer to sex. Therefore, they chose a slightly less obvious option - proximity. nine0120 But in general, if you delve into the language, then "intimacy" - in theory, it should not be about sex either, but about something beautiful and warm between two people in a sensual sense. But alas, everything is as it is.

Modern magazines constantly write that you have to be capable of intimacy, and this is the absolute truth. Because for intimacy you need to respect "Privacy" - another word that is difficult to translate into Russian. If, again, you use the translator's false friend, you get "privacy". nine0120 But we go the other way, so from "Intimacy" and "Privacy" we get "Proximity" and "Personal (or private) space".

And then intimacy is a coordinating dynamism, which is aimed at arousing sympathy, tenderness and devotion in a partner and thereby getting rid of two unpleasant feelings - anxiety and loneliness. Involves a close relationship between two people of more or less equal status. Each of them sees in the other an equal personality, and not just an object of pleasure. nine0005

If you try to simplify - proximity is such a thing when next to you is not just a person with a pretty face or a potential apartment without a mortgage, but someone important, significant, interesting and therefore wonderful. Someone you respect and accept, and who respects and accepts you. Because it doesn't work one way.
And you respect both his event (being together) with you and his separation from you.

Many girls declare this, but in fact their inner anxiety in company with the coldness of their partner often leads to dependent relationships. nine0005

I feel closeness best with old friends - with those with whom I have spent many years together, and I know that next to them I can be myself, tell something really important about myself, hug them, kiss, hold by the hand - and they will try to hear me, accept me, answer me the same.
Precisely because most often this intimacy is not colored by sexual notes (and a joint mortgage) or the obvious need for my love, as in the case of a child.
Although in my opinion both sex and parenthood become much more joyful if there is intimacy. nine0005

Why do we talk about ability or inability? Because many people are not ready to empathize, open up, interact and trust. And there is no intimacy.
Existentialists and humanists spoke a lot about this problem. Even Viktor Frankl widely studied the problem of juvenile suicides and said that material satisfaction often coexists in modern people with personal dissatisfaction - in relationships, in meanings, in deep feelings.
Emptiness is born from this, from emptiness - depression and loneliness, from depression and loneliness - suicides and consumer relations with other people. nine0005

To go into intimacy, one needs to believe that it is possible.
But to believe in something that is difficult to find a word in Russian is not so easy.

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