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 ©2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
The American Heritage Dictionary Blog
Check out our blog, updated regularly, for new words and revised definitions, interesting images from the 5th edition, discussions of usage, and more.
American Heritage Dictionary Products
The American Heritage Dictionary, 5th Edition
The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms
The American Heritage Roget's Thesaurus
Curious George's Dictionary
The American Heritage Children's Dictionary
The American Heritage Dictionary of Indo-European Roots
The American Heritage Student Grammar Dictionary
The American Heritage Desk Dictionary + Thesaurus
The American Heritage Science Dictionary
The American Heritage Dictionary of Business Terms
The American Heritage Student Dictionary
The American Heritage Essential Student Thesaurus