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From Middle English likken, from Old English liccian, from Proto-Germanic *likkōną (compare Saterland Frisian likje, Dutch likken, German lecken), from Proto-Indo-European *leyǵʰ- (compare Old Irish ligid, Latin lingō (lick), ligguriō (to lap, lick up), Lithuanian laižyti, Old Church Slavonic лизати (lizati), Ancient Greek λείχω (leíkhō), Old Armenian լիզեմ (lizem), Persian لیسیدن (lisidan), Sanskrit लेढि (léḍhi), रेढि (réḍhi)).


  • IPA(key): /lɪk/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ɪk


Yellow River in rural Indiana, USA - example of a lick.

lick (plural licks)

  1. The act of licking; a stroke of the tongue.
    The cat gave its fur a lick.
  2. The amount of some substance obtainable with a single lick.
    Give me a lick of ice cream.
  3. A quick and careless application of anything, as if by a stroke of the tongue, or of something which acts like a tongue.
    a lick of paint; to put on colours with a lick of the brush
    • 1774, Thomas Gray, “The Candidate”‎[1], Strawberry Hill Press:
      When ſly Jemmy Twitcher had ſmugg'd up his face / With a lick of court white waſh,
  4. A place where animals lick minerals from the ground.
    The birds gathered at the clay lick.
  5. A small watercourse or ephemeral stream. It ranks between a rill and a stream.
    We used to play in the lick.
  6. (colloquial) A stroke or blow.
    Hit that wedge a good lick with the sledgehammer.
  7. (colloquial) A bit.
    You don't have a lick of sense.
    I didn't do a lick of work today.
    • 2011 Allen Gregory, "Pilot" (season 1, episode 1):
      Allen Gregory DeLongpre: Why don't I call Jean-Michel at Il Portofino? We'll get a table outside? Ooh, I'm not getting a lick of service. Babe, can I hop on your landline?
  8. (music) A short motif.
    There are some really good blues licks in this solo.
  9. Speed. (Always qualified by good, fair, or a similar adjective.)
    The bus was travelling at a good lick when it swerved and left the road.
    • 1852, John Denison Vose, Fresh Leaves from the Diary of a Broadway Dandy, page 109:
      Dandy Marx, a perfect gentleman in the true sense of the word, now drives forth under single harness ; whereas “once upon a time,” he rushed over the ground at a “big lick,” reigning his four beautiful roans, and continually kicking up an extra excitement among the “fashionables.”
  10. (slang) An act of cunnilingus
    You up for a lick tonight?




lick (third-person singular simple present licks, present participle licking, simple past and past participle licked)

  1. (transitive) To stroke with the tongue.
    The cat licked its fur.
  2. (transitive) To lap; to take in with the tongue.
    She licked the last of the honey off the spoon before washing it.
  3. (colloquial) To defeat decisively, particularly in a fight.
    My dad can lick your dad.
  4. (colloquial) To overcome.
    I think I can lick this.
    • 1957 December 30, Ren Grevatt, “Concensus Tabs Stereo Disk Still in Research Stage: Diskery and Phono Toppers Sound Tempering Notes of Caution”, in Billboard, page 11:
      This week, diskery and phono manufacturer spokesmen sounded tempering notes of caution as they discussed the many problems still to be licked in developing truly compatible stereo with fidelity standards equal to those now available in monaural disks.
  5. (vulgar, slang) To perform cunnilingus.
  6. (colloquial) To do anything partially.
  7. (of flame, waves etc.) To lap.
    • 1895, H. G. Wells, The Time Machine Chapter XI
      Now, in this decadent age the art of fire-making had been altogether forgotten on the earth. The red tongues that went licking up my heap of wood were an altogether new and strange thing to Weena.


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout#Translations.

Derived terms[edit]