v. licked, lick·ing, licks
1. To pass the tongue over or along: lick a stamp.
2. To lap up: The cat licked the milk from the bowl.
3. To lap or flicker at like a tongue: The waves licked the sides of the boat.
a. To beat or thrash.
b. To defeat soundly: licked their rivals in lacrosse.
c. To deal with effectively; overcome: licked her weight problem.
To pass or lap quickly and rapidly: The flames licked at our feet.
1. The act or process of licking.
2. An amount obtained by licking: a lick of ice cream.
3. A small quantity; a bit: hasn't got a lick of common sense.
4. A deposit of exposed natural salt that is licked by passing animals.
5. Slang A sudden hard stroke; a blow.
6. Slang An attempt; a try: Why not give those skis a lick?
7. Informal Speed; pace: moving along at a good lick.
8. Music A phrase improvised by a soloist, especially on the guitar or banjo.
lick and a promise
A superficial effort made without care or enthusiasm.
lick into shape Informal
To bring into satisfactory condition or appearance.
lick (one's) chops
To anticipate delightedly.
lick (one's) wounds
To recuperate after a defeat.
lick (someone's) boots
To behave in a servile or obsequious manner toward someone.
[Middle English licken, from Old English liccian; see leigh- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2022 by HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.