- to pass the tongue over the surface of, as to moisten, taste, or eat (often followed by up, off, from, etc.): to lick a postage stamp; to lick an ice-cream cone.
- to make, or cause to become, by stroking with the tongue: to lick a spoon clean.
- (of waves, flames, etc.) to pass or play lightly over: The flame licked the dry timber.
- to hit or beat, especially as a punishment; thrash; whip.
- to overcome or defeat, as in a fight, game, or contest.
- to outdo or surpass.
- to move quickly or lightly.
- a stroke of the tongue over something.
- as much as can be taken up by one stroke of the tongue.
- salt lick.
- a blow.
- a brief, brisk burst of activity or energy.
- a quick pace or clip; speed.
- a small amount: I haven't done a lick of work all week.
- Usually licks. a critical or complaining remark.
- Usually licks. Jazz Slang. a musical phrase, as by a soloist in improvising.
- lick up, to lap up; devour greedily.
- last licks, a final turn or opportunity: We got in our last licks on the tennis court before the vacation ended.
- lick and a promise, a hasty and perfunctory performance in doing something: I didn't have time to clean thoroughly, so I gave the room a lick and a promise.
- lick ass, Slang: Vulgar. kiss(def 18).
- lick into shape, Informal. to bring to completion or perfection through discipline, hard work, etc.: They needed another rehearsal to lick the production into shape.
- lick one's chops. chop3(def 7).
- lick one's wounds. wound1(def 6).
- lick the dust. dust(def 24).
Origin of lick
SynonymsSee more synonyms on Thesaurus.com
Examples from the Web for lick
I remember practicing that lick [from the solo “Round Midnight” recording] years ago, learning how to do that cascade effect.Herbie Hancock Holds Forth
November 8, 2014
Another intriguing fact about the original is that Sam Levene, who played Nathan, couldn't sing a lick and said so.New York’s Greatest Show Or How They Did Not Screw Up ‘Guys and Dolls’
April 6, 2014
Elsewhere in the song, Kelly compares himself to the cookie monster and cleverly sings “I love to lick the middle like an Oreo.”R. Kelly’s Craziest Lyrics From ‘Black Panties,’ Analyzed
December 3, 2013
“I can still see the lick Marshall put on Ferguson,” said Ditka.The Hit Heard Around the World
November 7, 2013
Both peoples need time to lick their wounds, get to know each other as something other than Evil, and build (yes) confidence.Why I'm Still a Two Stater
Emily L. Hauser
June 15, 2012
He knew Jim couldn't swim a lick, so he thought he'd have Jim go drown.
So Uncle Peter had to lick her father and two brothers before he could get her away.
I had been used to see the men about me lick the dust at my feet, for it was gold dust.Tales And Novels, Volume 3 (of 10)
Then he burst out, "I'd lick both of you, if I was sure this was a where or when to foight!"The Widow O'Callaghan's Boys
The younger leader turned his head to lick a wound on his shoulder.White Fang
- (tr) to pass the tongue over, esp in order to taste or consume
- to flicker or move lightly over or round (something)the flames licked around the door
- (tr) informal
- to defeat or vanquish
- to flog or thrash
- to be or do much better than
- lick into shape to put into a satisfactory condition: from the former belief that bear cubs were born formless and had to be licked into shape by their mother
- lick one's lips to anticipate or recall something with glee or relish
- lick one's wounds to retire after a defeat or setback in order to husband one's resources
- lick the boots of See boot 1 (def. 14)
- an instance of passing the tongue over something
- a small amounta lick of paint
- Also called: salt lick a block of compressed salt or chemical matter provided for domestic animals to lick for medicinal and nutritional purposes
- a place to which animals go to lick exposed natural deposits of salt
- informal a hit; blow
- slang a short musical phrase, usually on one instrument
- informal speed; rate of movementhe was going at quite a lick when he hit it
- a lick and a promise something hastily done, esp a hurried wash
Word Origin and History for lick
Old English liccian "to pass the tongue over the surface, lap, lick up," from Proto-Germanic *likkon (cf. Old Saxon likkon, Dutch likken, Old High German lecchon, German lecken, Gothic bi-laigon), from PIE imitative base *leigh- (cf. Sanskrit ledhi "he licks," Armenian lizum "I lick," Greek leikhein "to lick," Latin lingere "to lick," Old Irish ligim "I lick," Welsh llwy "spoon"). French lécher is a Germanic loan word.
To lick (someone or something) into shape (1610s) is in reference to the supposed ways of bears:
Beres ben brought forthe al fowle and transformyd and after that by lyckyng of the fader and the moder they ben brought in to theyr kyndely shap. ["The Pylgremage of the Sowle," 1413]
"an act of licking," c.1600, from lick (v.1). Meaning "small portion" is 1814, originally Scottish; hence U.S. colloquial sense. Sense of "place where an animal goes to lick salt" is from 1747. The jazz music sense of "short figure or solo" is by 1922.
"to beat," 1535, perhaps from figurative use of lick (v.1) in the Coverdale bible that year in sense of "defeat, annihilate" (an enemy's forces) in Num. xxii:4:
Now shal this heape licke up all that is about vs, euen as an oxe licketh vp the grasse in the field.
But to lick (of) the whip "taste punishment" is attested from mid-15c.