The nape is the back of the neck. In technical anatomical/medical terminology, the nape is also called the nucha (from Latin); the corresponding adjective is nuchal, as in the term nuchal rigidity.

The nape of a Geisha
Cat carrying her kitten by the scruff

In many mammals, the nape is the site of the scruff, a loose, non-sensitive area of skin by which the mother can carry her young, holding the scruff between her teeth. In domestic cats, the scruff is used when a mother cat transfers her kittens, either by carrying them away from danger or to a new nest or den site (carrying each kitten by gripping its scruff in her teeth), and in mating, when the male cat (tom) grips the female cat's scruff with his teeth to help keep her relatively immobile.[1] See Pinch-induced behavioral inhibition.

Cultural connotations

In traditional Japanese culture, the nape (, unaji) was one of the few areas of the body (other than face and hands) left uncovered by women's attire. The nape of a woman's neck held a strong attraction for many Japanese men (see Geisha makeup).[2]

In Egyptian culture, slapping the nape is considered a gesture of utter humiliation.[3]

In African American culture, the nape is sometimes referred to as the "kitchen".[4][5][6][7]

The nape is sometimes a target of body piercing.[8]


  1. Morris, Desmond (1994). Illustrated Catwatching. Crescent Books. pp. 94, 108. ISBN 0-517-12065-8.
  2. Cherry, Kittredge (1987). Womansword: What Japanese Words Say about Women. Kodansha. p. 21. ISBN 4-7700-1655-7.
  3. Khalifa, A. M. (2014-04-28). Terminal Rage. Mavenhill. ISBN 9781940387000.
  4. Jones, Linda (July 1, 2008). "More About the Kitchen". Naturally Curly.
  5. HAIRLICIOUS INC. (December 9, 2015). "5 Ways to Grow Your Nape Area". Essence.
  6. J, Christina (June 19, 2015). "7 Ways to Care for Nape Hair". Black Hair Information.
  7. Angelayalet (October 23, 2017). "Discussion in 'Natural Hair Care': My kitchen/nape hair is different from my crown". Lipstick Alley.
  8. "Surface - Nape Body Piercing Location Information". Body Jewellery Shop.
  • The dictionary definition of nape at Wiktionary
  • Media related to Nape at Wikimedia Commons
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