Idioms

    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

before 1000; Middle English; Old English liccian, cognate with Old Saxon liccōn, Old High German leckōn; akin to Go bilaigon, Latin lingere, Greek leíchein to lick (up)
Related formslick·er, noun

Synonyms for lick

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019


British Dictionary definitions for lick into shape

lick

verb

(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
  1. to defeat or vanquish
  2. to flog or thrash
  3. 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)

noun

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
Derived Formslicker, noun

Word Origin for lick

Old English liccian; related to Old High German leckon, Latin lingere, Greek leikhein
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

Word Origin and History for lick into shape

lick

v.2

"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.

lick

v.1

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]

lick

n.

"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.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with lick into shape

lick into shape

Also, whip into shape. Bring into satisfactory condition or appearance, as in The garden looks neglected, but Dad will soon lick it into shape, or We need at least three more practices before the team is whipped into shape. The expression using lick, which some think alludes to how bears treat their cubs, dates from about 1600. The variant alludes to the forceful use of a whip to accomplish something.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.