Petting is an informal term for sexual activity without sexual intercourse. The term originated because it is a lot like the loving way people stroke or caress animals.
Kissing and caressing are two of the most common forms of petting. Petting involving contact underneath clothes or below the waist is often called heavy petting.
The term petting has been around since the early to mid-1870s but became popular in the 1940s. Many young people see the term as outdated today, although the practice still exists.