A slap is a blow given with an open hand, which makes a loud, sharp noise. The word smack (sometimes also spelled smak) is almost synonymous. However smack also has extended meanings, as it can, for example, also be used to refer to the sound made by lips.
A slap is less painful, and less likely to injure, than a punch and comes with less negative/violent connotations. It is therefore used when it comes to chastise an offender in a safe way that will not result in injury, as a warning or minor punishment that is somewhat painful but mainly humiliating. A common stereotype, often seen in film and comics, is that of a woman slapping a man who has hurt her feelings, or offended or molested her. The guy usually accepts such a slap without further action. On the other hand, whenever a man slaps a woman, e.g. in a movie, the usual stereotype is that this man is a violent wife-beater. Whenever an adult (male or female) slaps a child, they lose self-control and abuse the child, and whenever one woman slaps another woman, the two are usually rivals.
Both slap and smack are examples onomatopoeia, words sounding like what they represent. "Smack" comes with connotations of a harder impact than "slap".
Occasionally the word slap is also used for an implement that is similar to a hand in that it is flat, not too heavy, and makes a slapping noise, for example a ruler or a leather paddle. A slap can be given to any flat (or convex) object or body part that's the size of a hand or bigger. For example, you can slap someone's back, face, buttocks, calves, or hand. After a hard slap, or several slaps, the slapped skin will begin to redden.
Slapping the back is often done friendly and encouragingly, for example when congratulating someone. Giving a female (e.g. a waitress) a friendly spank on her rear when she is passing by one's seat used to be in some places a popular sport and a way of expressing that one finds the spanked person attractive (e.g. in Germany) that was reacted to often negatively but with humor; nowadays the same would face the spanking person with sexual harrassment charges.
A friendly smack on a child's bottom, without any punitive connotations, for example when sending them out of the room to go somewhere, is still widely accepted in society. Many children also like to playfully smack their parents in jest nowadays, which may result in a fun game where everybody tries to give another a smack back.
The chiefly British term smacking is synonymous with a hand-spanking.
"Happy slapping" is an euphemism for a form of violence in which someone attacks an unsuspecting victim while an accomplice records a video of the assault (commonly with a camera phone or a smartphone). The attack may be anything from mere slaps to sexual assaults, rape, extreme violence, or manslaughter.
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