[ ik ]
/ ɪk /
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(used as an expression of distaste or repugnance.)
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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does ick mean?

Ick is used to show disgust or repugnance, as in Ick! That’s so gross. As a noun phrase, the ick is also an informal term for sickness or other queasy feelings.

How is ick pronounced?

[ ik ]

What are some other forms of ick?

  • icky
  • the ick
  • ick factor

Where does ick come from?

Like many interjections, ick is probably imitative or expressive—that is, it sounds like what it is meant to convey.

Icky-boo is recorded in the 1920s for “feeling sick,” possibly derived from sick. In his 1922 novel Ulysses, James Joyce described kisses as “ickylickysticky yumyum,” suggesting a connection to sticky.

The adjective icky is recorded in the 1930s, when jazz musicians referred to sappy, sentimental songs as icky. Ick, as a general informal term for grossness, is found in the 1940s.

In 2017, ick got an update on the British romance reality TV show Love Island. The contestant Olivia, when explaining why she moved on from fellow contestant and one-time love interest Sam, said he gave her the ick—that gut-lurching feeling when someone you liked at first suddenly becomes repulsive. The ick spread like wildfire on social media and entered the popular lexicon.

How is ick used in real life?

As an expression of disgust, ick appears in everyday speech and writing. It has also appeared throughout popular culture. The 1985 sci-fi comedy Real Genius, for instance, featured the quotable line, “Ick! I’m melting!”

The sitcom Friends used ick in the 1995 episode “The One With The Ick Factor.” In the episode, the character Monica finds out her new boyfriend is 17 and breaks up with him because “it’s icky.” As the episode title suggests, ick factor is an expression for something that causes disgust, especially on a larger behavioral or social level.

Icky Thump is the sixth album and title track by rockers The White Stripes, which was released in 2007. In 2016, the band sold “Icky Trump” t-shirts as a political statement after Trump used their anthemic “Seven Nation Army” without permission.

More examples of ick:

“Marin garbage collectors say they are not seeing strong participation in countywide food scrap collection efforts—and the ‘ick factor’ is largely to blame.”

—Stephanie Weldy, Marin Independent Journal, July 2017

How to use ick in a sentence