a strong cotton fabric, usually twilled, used especially in making cloth ticks.
a similar cloth in satin weave or Jacquard, used especially for mattress covers.

Origin of ticking

First recorded in 1635–45; tick3 + -ing1




a slight, sharp, recurring click, tap, or beat, as of a clock.
Chiefly British Informal. a moment or instant.
a small dot, mark, check, or electronic signal, as used to mark off an item on a list, serve as a reminder, or call attention to something.
Stock Exchange.
  1. a movement in the price of a stock, bond, or option.
  2. the smallest possible tick on a given exchange.
Manège. a jumping fault consisting of a light touch of a fence with one or more feet.
a small contrasting spot of color on the coat of a mammal or the feathers of a bird.

verb (used without object)

to emit or produce a tick, like that of a clock.
to pass as with ticks of a clock: The hours ticked by.

verb (used with object)

to sound or announce by a tick or ticks: The clock ticked the minutes.
to mark with a tick or ticks; check (usually followed by off); to tick off the items on the memo.

Verb Phrases

tick off, Slang.
  1. to make angry: His mistreatment of the animals really ticked me off.
  2. Chiefly British.to scold severely: The manager will tick you off if you make another mistake.


    what makes one tick, the motive or explanation of one's behavior: The biographer failed to show what made Herbert Hoover tick.

Origin of tick

1400–50; late Middle English tek little touch; akin to Dutch tik a touch, pat, Norwegian tikka to touch or shove slightly. See tickle
Can be confusedtic tick
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for ticking

tap, beat, pulsate, clack, thump, ticktock

Examples from the Web for ticking

Contemporary Examples of ticking

Historical Examples of ticking

  • Vaguely, between Kitty's sobs, I heard the ticking of a watch.

  • "This is obviously a conundrum," said Yates, ticking off the items on his four fingers.

  • At its highest speed this ticking changed into a continuous sound of trickling.

    The Secret Agent

    Joseph Conrad

  • The ticking of the clock emphasized the inexorable silence of the house.

    Tiverton Tales

    Alice Brown

  • "Fact six," said the Baron, ticking off the thumb of his other hand.

British Dictionary definitions for ticking



a strong cotton fabric, often striped, used esp for mattress and pillow covers

Word Origin for ticking

C17: from tick ³




a recurrent metallic tapping or clicking sound, such as that made by a clock or watch
British informal a moment or instant
a mark (✓) or dash used to check off or indicate the correctness of something
commerce the smallest increment of a price fluctuation in a commodity exchange. Tick size is usually 0.01% of the nominal value of the trading unit


to produce a recurrent tapping sound or indicate by such a soundthe clock ticked the minutes away
(when tr, often foll by off) to mark or check (something, such as a list) with a tick
what makes someone tick informal the basic drive or motivation of a person

Word Origin for tick

C13: from Low German tikk touch; related to Old High German zekōn to pluck, Norwegian tikke to touch




any of various small parasitic arachnids of the families Ixodidae (hard ticks) and Argasidae (soft ticks), typically living on the skin of warm-blooded animals and feeding on the blood and tissues of their hosts: order Acarina (mites and ticks)See also sheep tick (def. 1) Related adjective: acaroid
any of certain other arachnids of the order Acarina
any of certain insects of the dipterous family Hippoboscidae that are ectoparasitic on horses, cattle, sheep, etc, esp the sheep ked

Word Origin for tick

Old English ticca; related to Middle High German zeche tick, Middle Irish dega stag beetle




British informal account or credit (esp in the phrase on tick)

Word Origin for tick

C17: shortened from ticket




the strong covering of a pillow, mattress, etc
informal short for ticking

Word Origin for tick

C15: probably from Middle Dutch tīke; related to Old High German ziecha pillow cover, Latin tēca case, Greek thēkē
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 ticking

"cloth covering for mattresses or pillows," 1640s, from tyke (modern tick) with the same meaning (mid-14c.), probably from Middle Dutch tike, from a West Germanic borrowing of Latin theca "case," from Greek theke "a case, box, cover, sheath" (see theco-).



parasitic blood-sucking arachnid animal, Old English ticia, from West Germanic *tik- (cf. Middle Dutch teke, Dutch teek, Old High German zecho, German Zecke "tick"), of unknown origin. French tique (mid-15c.), Italian zecca are Germanic loan-words.



mid-15c., "light touch or tap," probably from tick (v.) and cognate with Dutch tik, Middle High German zic, and perhaps echoic. Meaning "sound made by a clock" is probably first recorded 1540s; tick-tock is recorded from 1848.



"credit," 1640s, shortening of ticket (n.).



early 13c., "to touch or pat," perhaps from an Old English verb corresponding to tick (n.2), and perhaps ultimately echoic. Cf. Old High German zeckon "to pluck," Dutch tikken "to pat," Norwegian tikke "touch lightly." Related: Ticked; ticking.

To tick (someone) off is from 1915, originally "to reprimand, scold." The verbal phrase tick off was in use in several senses at the time: as what a telegraph instrument does when it types out a message (1873), as what a clock does in marking the passage of time (1846), to enumerate on one's fingers (1899), and in accountancy, etc., "make a mark beside an item on a sheet with a pencil, etc.," often indicating a sale (by 1881). This might be the direct source of the phrase, perhaps via World War I military bureaucratic sense of being marked off from a list as "dismissed" or "ineligible." Meaning "to annoy" is recorded from 1975.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

ticking in Medicine




Any of numerous small bloodsucking parasitic arachnids of the families Ixodidae and Argasidae, many of which transmit febrile diseases, such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Lyme disease.
Any of various usually wingless, louselike insects of the family Hippobosciddae that are parasitic on sheep, goats, and other animals.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

ticking in Science



Any of numerous small, parasitic arachnids of the suborder Ixodida that feed on the blood of animals. Like their close relatives the mites and unlike spiders, ticks have no division between cephalothorax and abdomen. Ticks differ from mites by being generally larger and having a sensory pit at the end of their first pair of legs. Many ticks transmit febrile diseases, such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Lyme disease.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Idioms and Phrases with ticking


In addition to the idiom beginning with tick

  • tickled pink
  • tickle one's fancy
  • tickle the ivories
  • tick off

also see:

  • clock is ticking
  • tight as a tick
  • what makes one tick
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.