1. an act or instance of touching up: Her makeup needed a touch-up.

verb (used with object)

  1. to put the hand, finger, etc., on or into contact with (something) to feel it: He touched the iron cautiously.
  2. to come into contact with and perceive (something), as the hand or the like does.
  3. to bring (the hand, finger, etc., or something held) into contact with something: She touched a match to the papers.
  4. to give a slight tap or pat to with the hand, finger, etc.; strike or hit gently or lightly.
  5. to come into or be in contact with.
  6. Geometry. (of a line or surface) to be tangent to.
  7. to be adjacent to or border on.
  8. to come up to; reach; attain.
  9. to attain equality with; compare with (usually used with a negative): a style that cannot touch that of Shakespeare.
  10. to mark by strokes of the brush, pencil, or the like.
  11. to mark or relieve slightly, as with color: a gray dress touched with blue.
  12. to stop at (a place), as a ship: The ship touched shore several times during the cruise.
  13. to treat or affect in some way by contact.
  14. to affect as if by contact; tinge; imbue.
  15. to affect with some feeling or emotion, especially tenderness, pity, gratitude, etc.: Their sufferings touched his heart.
  16. to handle, use, or have to do with in any way (usually used with a negative): She can’t touch the money until she’s 21.
  17. to eat or drink; consume; taste (usually used with a negative): He won’t touch another drink.
  18. to lay hands on, often in a violent manner: Don’t you touch this child!
  19. to deal with or treat in speech or writing.
  20. to refer or allude to.
  21. to pertain or relate to: a critic in all matters touching the kitchen.
  22. to be a matter of importance to; make a difference to; affect: This grave decision touches all of us.
  23. Metallurgy. to stamp (metal) as being of standard purity.
  24. Slang. to apply to for money, or succeed in getting money from: He touched me for five dollars.
  25. Slang. to steal from.
  26. Archaic.
    1. to strike the strings, keys, etc., of (a musical instrument) so as to cause it to sound.
    2. to play or perform (an air, notes, etc.) on a musical instrument.

verb (used without object)

  1. to place the hand, finger, etc., on or in contact with something.
  2. to come into or be in contact.
  3. to make a stop or a short call at a place, as a ship or those on board (usually followed by at).


  1. the act or state of touching; state or fact of being touched.
  2. that sense by which anything material is perceived by means of physical contact.
  3. the quality of something touched that imparts a sensation: an object with a slimy touch.
  4. a coming into or being in contact.
  5. mental or moral perception, sensitivity, or understanding: He has a marvelous touch in dealing with people.
  6. ability, skill, or dexterity; knack: to lose one’s touch.
  7. Fencing. the contact of the point of a foil or épée or the point or edge of the blade of a saber with a specified portion of the opponent’s body, counting one point for the scorer.
  8. close communication, agreement, sympathy, or the like: to be out of touch with reality; Let’s keep in touch.
  9. a slight stroke or blow.
  10. a slight attack, as of illness or disease: a touch of rheumatism.
  11. a slight added action or effort in doing or completing any piece of work: to provide the finishing touches.
  12. manner of execution in artistic work.
  13. the act or manner of touching or fingering a keyboard instrument.
  14. the mode of action of the keys of an instrument, as of a piano or typewriter.
  15. Change Ringing. a partial series of changes on a peal of bells.
  16. a stroke or dash, as with a brush, pencil, or pen.
  17. a detail in any artistic work.
  18. a slight amount of some quality, attribute, etc.: a touch of sarcasm in his voice.
  19. a slight quantity or degree: a touch of salt.
  20. a distinguishing characteristic or trait: the touch of the master.
  21. quality or kind in general.
  22. an act of testing something.
  23. something that serves as a test; touchstone.
  24. Slang.
    1. the act of approaching someone for money as a gift or a loan.
    2. the obtaining of money in this manner.
    3. the money obtained.
    4. a person considered from the standpoint of the relative ease with which he or she will lend money: I can always hit him for ten—he’s an easy touch.
  25. Slang. theft.
  26. Metallurgy.
    1. an official mark put upon precious metal after testing to indicate its purity.
    2. a die, stamp, or the like for impressing such a mark.
    3. an identifying mark impressed on pewter by its maker.
  27. Soccer. the area outside the touchlines.
  28. Rugby. either of the touchlines or the area outside of the touchlines.

Verb Phrases

  1. touch down, (of an airplane) to come into contact with the ground; land.
  2. touch off,
    1. to represent or characterize precisely.
    2. to cause to ignite or explode.
    3. to give rise to; initiate: This incident will touch off another crisis.
  3. touch on/upon,
    1. to mention a subject briefly or casually; treat of in passing: In his lecture he touched on the major aspects of the controversy.
    2. to come close to; approach.
    3. to relate or pertain to.
  4. touch up,
    1. to make minor changes or improvements in the appearance of.
    2. to modify or improve (a painting, photograph, etc.) by adding small strokes or making slight changes.
    3. to rouse by or as if by striking: This should touch up your memory.

  1. put the touch on, Informal. to try to borrow money from: Willie put the touch on me for another ten last night.
  2. touch base with. base1(def 36).

verb (tr, adverb)

  1. to put extra or finishing touches to
  2. to enhance, renovate, or falsify by putting extra touches toto touch up a photograph
  3. to stimulate or rouse as by a tap or light blow
  4. British slang to touch or caress (someone), esp to arouse sexual feelings

noun touch-up

  1. a renovation or retouching, as of a painting


  1. the sense by which the texture and other qualities of objects can be experienced when they come in contact with a part of the body surface, esp the tips of the fingersRelated adjectives: haptic, tactile, tactual
  2. the quality of an object as perceived by this sense; feel; feeling
  3. the act or an instance of something coming into contact with the body
  4. a gentle push, tap, or caress
  5. a small amount; hinta touch of sarcasm
  6. a noticeable effect; influencethe house needed a woman’s touch
  7. any slight stroke or markwith a touch of his brush he captured the scene
  8. characteristic manner or stylethe artist had a distinctive touch
  9. a detail of some work, esp a literary or artistic workshe added a few finishing touches to the book
  10. a slight attack, as of a diseasea touch of bronchitis
  11. a specific ability or facilitythe champion appeared to have lost his touch
  12. the state of being aware of a situation or in contact with someoneto get in touch with someone
  13. the state of being in physical contact
  14. a trial or test (esp in the phrase put to the touch)
  15. rugby soccer the area outside the touchlines, beyond which the ball is out of play (esp in the phrase in touch)
  16. archaic
    1. an official stamp on metal indicating standard purity
    2. the die stamp used to apply this markNow usually called: hallmark
  17. a scoring hit in competitive fencing
  18. an estimate of the amount of gold in an alloy as obtained by use of a touchstone
  19. the technique of fingering a keyboard instrument
  20. the quality of the action of a keyboard instrument with regard to the relative ease with which the keys may be depressedthis piano has a nice touch
  21. bell-ringing any series of changes where the permutations are fewer in number than for a peal
  22. slang
    1. the act of asking for money as a loan or gift, often by devious means
    2. the money received in this way
    3. a person asked for money in this wayhe was an easy touch


  1. (tr) to cause or permit a part of the body to come into contact with
  2. (tr) to tap, feel, or strike, esp with the handdon’t touch the cake!
  3. to come or cause (something) to come into contact with (something else)their hands touched briefly; he touched the match to the fuse
  4. (intr) to be in contact
  5. (tr; usually used with a negative) to take hold of (a person or thing), esp in violencedon’t touch the baby!
  6. to be adjacent to (each other)the two properties touch
  7. (tr) to move or disturb by handlingsomeone’s touched my desk
  8. (tr) to have an effect onthe war scarcely touched our town
  9. (tr) to produce an emotional response inhis sad story touched her
  10. (tr) to affect; concern
  11. (tr; usually used with a negative) to partake of, eat, or drink
  12. (tr; usually used with a negative) to handle or deal withI wouldn’t touch that business
  13. (when intr, often foll by on) to allude (to) briefly or in passingthe speech touched on several subjects
  14. (tr) to tinge or tint slightlybrown hair touched with gold
  15. (tr) to spoil or injure slightlyblackfly touched the flowers
  16. (tr) to mark, as with a brush or pen
  17. (tr) to compare to in quality or attainment; equal or matchthere’s no-one to touch him
  18. (tr) to reach or attainhe touched the high point in his career
  19. (intr) to dock or stop brieflythe ship touches at Tenerife
  20. (tr) slang to ask for a loan or gift of money from
  21. rare
    1. to finger (the keys or strings of an instrument)
    2. to play (a tune, piece of music, etc) in this way
  22. touch base to make contactSee base 1 (def. 26)

late 13c., from Old French touchier “to touch, hit, knock” (11c.), from Vulgar Latin *toccare “to knock, strike” as a bell (cf. Spanish tocar, Italian toccare), perhaps of imitative origin. Meaning “to get or borrow money” first recorded 1760. Related: Touched; touching.

Touch and go (adj.) is recorded from 1812, apparently from the name of a tag-like game, first recorded 1650s. Touch football is first attested 1933. Touch-me-not (1590s) translates Latin noli-me-tangere.


c.1300, from Old French touche “a touching,” from touchier (see touch (v.)). Meaning “slight attack” (of an illness, etc.) is recorded from 1660s. Sense of “skill or aptitude in some topic” is first recorded 1927. Soft touch “person easily manipulated” is recorded from 1940.


  1. The physiological sense by which external objects or forces are perceived through contact with the body.
  2. Digital examination.

Make minor changes or improvements, as in This wall needs some touching up but not complete repainting. [Early 1700s]

In addition to the idioms beginning with touch

  • touch and go
  • touch base with
  • touch bottom
  • touch down
  • touched by, be
  • touched in the head
  • touch off
  • touch on
  • touch up

also see:

  • common touch
  • finishing touch
  • hit (touch) bottom
  • in touch
  • lose one’s touch
  • lose touch
  • not touch with a ten-foot pole
  • out of touch
  • put the arm (touch) on
  • soft touch
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