slap or spank

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Senior Member
I used to think that slap and spank mean the same thing, until I looked it up in the dictionary. I thought both of them meant hitting someone's face (cheek) with the palm of one's hand.

It seems that the word spank is limited to the bottom, and is usually applied to little children. And the word slap is not limited to hitting someone's cheek with the palm. When you hear statements like this, what would you think?

She slapped me.

On what part of the body was the speaker hit? Or that statement is insufficient because you have to specify on what part of the body?
  • GreenWhiteBlue

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    One would probably assume that she slapped your face, but if one learned that she slapped your hand or your arm, the word "slap" would still have been entirely appropriate and natural. What makes a slap a slap is not the object slapped, but the way the blow is administered (usually, with an open palm.)
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    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Yes, slapping is typically on the face but not necessarily so (as indicated in #2 and #4). Spanking is typically on the bottom, but I think it might be possible to say 'I spanked him on the back of his thigh'. (Others to confirm?) And finally, how is this different from smacking which is also typically on the bottom? My suspicion is that smacking is more BrE and spanking more AmE.


    Senior Member
    British English (Midlands)
    I tend to think of smacking as a single blow whereas spanking implies repeated blows, as in Max Ernst's painting 'The_Virgin Spanking the Infant Jesus' ( painted 15 years before the artist moved to the US).
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    Senior Member
    English - Great Britain
    Interestingly (or not) you can also use slap/smack for other uses, e.g.

    ...he just slapped the wallpaper on, willy-nilly

    ...he smacked the wet fish down on the worktop

    etc, etc, but not spank.
    But you can say:

    a brand spanking new car!


    Hello,Acording to the dictionary "to spank" means "to slap on the buttocks".Can the verb "spank" be used for hitting other parts of the body (like the verb "slap" for instance) or is it strictly limited to the buttocks?For instance:1. Can I say: "I spanked him in the face"?2. Can I say: "I spanked him on the legs"?There was is similar discussion regarding the French verb "fesser" in the English-French forum.


    Senior Member
    English (British)
    Spanking to me implies repeated blows so you could talk about spanking someone on the legs, the dictionary says "especially on the buttocks" but this does not mean exclusively. For the head or the face "slap" or "smack" would imply one or maybe two blows, I don't think one would talk about spanking someone on the head or face.
    In BrE "spank" means to hit with the open hand on the buttocks, but some people extend it to mean hitting the buttocks with any implement. I won't post links here, but if you google "spanking" you'll find many a BDSM site where it's discussed.

    I have never known it used for other parts of the body. The word "slap" is used to describe the open-handed striking of the face, legs etc.


    Senior Member
    American English
    In my American English experience, spanking has only ever referred to the buttocks with the open hand or other flat item, such as a hairbrush, ruler, ping-pong paddle or yardstick -- yardsticks being a favourite since they're so flimsy they tend to break long before they could do any damage. I've never heard of spanking appendages or faces.


    Senior Member
    English (British)
    In BE one can be spanked on the back of the legs or lower legs, but "spank" without qualifications would certainly imply on the buttocks.
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