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[slik] /slɪk/
verb (used with object)
to make sleek or smooth.
to use a slicker on (skins or hides).
Informal. to make smart or fine; spruce up (usually followed by up).
Metallurgy. a small trowel used for smoothing the surface of the mold.
any woodworking chisel having a blade more than 2 inches (5 cm) wide.
Origin of slick2
before 900; Middle English slicken (v.), Old English slician; akin to Old Norse slīkja to give a gloss to
Related forms
unslicked, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for slick up
Historical Examples
  • He said we must slick up our swords and guns, and get ready.

    Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Complete Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)
  • The women need a chance to wash their faces and slick up a little.

    A Man for the Ages Irving Bacheller
  • As soon as I am back in my cell I remove my cap and coat and “slick up” for dinner.

    Within Prison Walls Thomas Mott Osborne
  • When he knew in advance he was going with me, he went up to the bunkhouse to slick up.

    A Tenderfoot Bride Clarice E. Richards
  • He had donned a fresh shirt, ahead of time, and evidently had tried to slick up generally.

    The Pike's Peak Rush Edwin L. Sabin
  • I was goin' to slick up and drop around to see her, but this here Injun agent got in ahead of me.

    Mystery Ranch Arthur Chapman
  • He wished, though, that he could "slick up" a little to go to Johnny Welford's house.

  • "I made 'em slick up, all I could," said the big girl, who said her name was Maggie Walsh.

  • The visitor sat down, after telling Childs that the sailor's mother need not stop to "slick up" before he was admitted.

    Brave Old Salt Oliver Optic
British Dictionary definitions for slick up


flattering and glib: a slick salesman
adroitly devised or executed: a slick show
(informal, mainly US & Canadian) shrewd; sly
(informal) superficially attractive: a slick publication
(mainly US & Canadian) smooth and glossy; slippery
a slippery area, esp a patch of oil floating on water
a chisel or other tool used for smoothing or polishing a surface
the tyre of a racing car that has worn treads
verb (transitive)
(mainly US & Canadian) to make smooth or sleek
(US & Canadian, informal) (usually foll by up) to smarten or tidy (oneself)
(often foll by up) to make smooth or glossy
Derived Forms
slickly, adverb
slickness, noun
Word Origin
C14: probably of Scandinavian origin; compare Icelandic, Norwegian slikja to be or make smooth
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for slick up



Old English -slician (in nigslicod "newly made sleek"), from Proto-Germanic *slikojan, from base *slikaz (cf. Old Norse slikr "smooth," Old High German slihhan "to glide," German schleichen "to creep, crawl, sneak," Dutch slijk "mud, mire"), from PIE *sleig- "to smooth, glide, be muddy," from root *(s)lei- "slimy" (see slime (n.)). Related: Slicked; slicking.



1620s, a kind of cosmetic, from slick (v.). Meaning "smooth place on the surface of water caused by oil, etc." is attested from 1849. Meaning "a swindler, clever person" is attested from 1959.



early 14c., "smooth, glossy, sleek" (of skin or hair); sense of "clever in deception" is first recorded 1590s; that of "first-class, excellent" is from 1833. Related: Slickly; slickness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for slick up

slick up

verb phrase

To make neat and more attractive; furbish; gussy up: What are they all slicked up for? (1828+)



  1. Smooth and clever; smart: She's a very slick talker (1599+)
  2. Cunning; crafty: more than a match for any slick city lawyer (1807+)
  3. Excellent; nifty: The soup was ''simply slick'' (1843+)
  4. Glib and superficial; without real substance: They turn out people with slick plastic personalities (1920+)


  1. A magazine printed on glossy paper and usually having some artistic or intellectual pretensions, as distinguished from pulp magazines: magazines, from top slicks to minor pulps (1934+)
  2. n automobile tire with a very smooth tread: My Sting Ray is light, the slicks are startin' to spin (1950s+ Hot rodders)
  3. A police bureaucrat regarded as self-serving by the rank and file: But no way am I hanging around to talk to the slicks on this one (1980s+ New York City police)

[earlier 1800s uses were in comparative phrases like slick as bear's grease and slick as molasses]

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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