verb (used with object)
- 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.
verb (used without object)
- 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.
- lichtenstein, roy,
- lick and a promise, a,
- lick into shape,
- lick observatory,
- lick one's chops,
- lick one's wounds
Origin of lick
- to defeat or vanquish
- to flog or thrash
- to be or do much better than
Word Origin for lick
"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.
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.
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.