Definition of lick in US English:

lick

verb

[with object]
  • 1Pass the tongue over (something) in order to taste, moisten, or clean it.

    ‘he licked the stamp and stuck it on the envelope’
    no object ‘he licked at his damaged hand with his tongue’
    • ‘I edged away as far as I could get, finished my chips, and decided that I'd pass on licking my fingers clean.’
    • ‘The screen went dark as a monstrous tongue licked the lens, then a hand swiped it several times.’
    • ‘He now always licks the lenses clean with his tongue before wiping them on a cloth.’
    • ‘I opened my eyes to see big tan puppy was licking me.’
    • ‘He licked it off, rather like a cat licking his paw clean.’
    • ‘As well, neatness was taken into consideration and contestants had to lick their plates clean to advance.’
    • ‘He paused, then licked the paw thoughtfully; the shields around the males vanished.’
    • ‘He then licked his finger and shook his head with a look of disgust.’
    • ‘I know dogs like to roll around in the dirt, but dogs also don't lick themselves clean.’
    • ‘She opened one lazy eye to see an orange cat licking his paw in front of her.’
    • ‘I sucked more of it from my finger, until it was licked, clean.’
    • ‘He slowly guided her lips to his and he kissed her, his tongue licking her lips slightly.’
    • ‘He watched it drizzle down his finger then slowly licked it off.’
    • ‘I nervously licked them, a habit of mine when nervous.’
    • ‘The sickening sound of a saliva dripping tongue licking dry lips met my ears.’
    • ‘I wondered if they ever got splinters in their tongues from licking the wooden bowls clean.’
    • ‘I smiled as the two puppies licked each other.’
    • ‘Plus, with its slightly sweet taste, pets will lick the floor or other surfaces.’
    • ‘The customer licked his plate clean and the dish was thus born.’
    • ‘She'd lick the soup plate clean of everything except the peas and carrots, which she left in separate neat piles on either side of the dish.’
    tongue, wet, moisten, wash, clean
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1no object, with adverbial of direction (of a flame, wave, or breeze) move lightly and quickly like a tongue.
      ‘the flames licked around the wood’
      • ‘Within seconds, the classroom was ablaze and flames began licking towards the roof and windows.’
      • ‘Close by, a low fire burned, its flames licking hungrily at embers.’
      • ‘The flames were already licking through the panels with a fierce urgency that was terrifying to see.’
      • ‘When firefighters arrived thick smoke was billowing from the windows of three floors and flames were licking from the ground floor of the building, which is understood to be used as a market hall.’
      • ‘His models have been drenched by a downpour, licked by flames, paint-sprayed by robots and flown on invisible wires high above a pool of lethal spikes.’
      • ‘The flames licked his face as he covered his face with his forearms and knelt to absorb the shock.’
      • ‘He jumped over the fire, flames licking at the soles and bottoms of his hobnailed boots.’
      • ‘He looked up, horror in his straining eyes as the fire licked greedily along the edges of his parachute.’
      • ‘That house went up in flames in, literally, 15 to 20 seconds after the flames were licking at the door.’
      • ‘We all watched the fire, the flames licking up towards the sky and the smoke curling high above our heads.’
      • ‘Flames were already licking up the smashed windscreen and into the car.’
      • ‘Eyewitnesses have reported ‘large flames licking up the outside of the building,’ suggesting that such a fire might easily have caused serious injury.’
      • ‘The little white stick seemed to exhale appreciatively as the fire licked it.’
      • ‘With a ‘whoosh’, the dried wood and grasses caught fire, and the flames licked around the pyre.’
      • ‘He dived right after her, with flames licking his boots as they passed thru the hole.’
      • ‘Flames licked out of the exhaust as the plane lifted off the runway and began the ascent, and as the noise faded into the distance it seemed to get even more intense.’
      • ‘Video footage taken inside the club showed flames licking at foam insulation behind the stage, which erupted into a fast-moving fire that sent fans stampeding for the exits.’
      • ‘He dropped the fireball, the ground erupting in a fierce inferno, brutal flames licking at the surrounding trees with their fiery tongues.’
      • ‘Ceramic coals don't make a proper noise, for a start, and don't fall apart as the flames lick into them.’
      flicker, play, flick, flit, dart, ripple, dance
      View synonyms
  • 2informal Defeat (someone) comprehensively.

    ‘all right Mary, I know when I'm licked’
    • ‘Well, I'm sure with counseling and stuff, you're going to lick this.’
    • ‘Okay, I know the Aussies have licked us time and time again.’
    • ‘After not beating Leicester for 13 years, Gregory thought he had them licked when his side equalised 15 minutes from time.’
    • ‘So you can take the entire project on a disk and a laptop to your villa in Portugal and edit cost-free till you feel you've licked it.’
    overcome, get the better of, solve, find an answer to, find a solution to, conquer, beat, quell, control, govern, master, curb, check, bridle, tame
    View synonyms
    1. 2.1 Thrash.
      ‘she stands tall and could lick any man in the place’
      • ‘He said that these same parishioners would eventually turn around and lick him with some big stones.’
      • ‘I hope that the brevity of this war does not convince Americans that we can lick anybody on the block.’
      • ‘If you see him, lick him with a stone or something.’
      defeat, beat, best, conquer, trounce, thrash, rout, vanquish, overcome, overwhelm, overpower, destroy, drub, get the better of, triumph over, prevail over, gain a victory over, win against, win over, worst, subdue, quash, crush
      View synonyms

noun

  • 1An act of licking something with the tongue.

    ‘Sammy gave his fingers a long lick’
    • ‘He toyed with receivers in ways that allowed quarterbacks to think he'd been beaten, only to come back, quicker than a snake lick, and steal the pass.’
    • ‘For a second the dog hesitated, then as if compelled by a command, Rocky pounced on Kevin trailing his rough tongue all over his master's face in long slurpy licks.’
    • ‘She reached up and gave him a short lick on the cheek.’
    • ‘He shuffled closer to her and gave her a soft lick on the cheek.’
    • ‘She was giggling, occasionally giving him a kiss, a lick, a nibble.’
    • ‘It would only take a few snap of his jaws and a few licks of his fingers for the thing to be done and irreversible.’
    • ‘Kevin tried to intercede at one point but got his head covered with big wet sloppy tongue licks for his trouble.’
    • ‘Do you know that it takes an average of 50 licks to polish off a single scoop of ice cream cone?’
    • ‘The lion looked away again and gave itself an embarrassed lick.’
    • ‘She looked up, gave me a little lick, and all was well in my world.’
    • ‘Take three licks / laps and then turn the bowl over on the floor.’
    • ‘The mango flavour was sharp and sweet, but desperately rich; after a few licks my tongue started losing the battle.’
    • ‘A small smile broke out across her face as the bunny gave her finger a quick lick, then snorted at her.’
    • ‘He gave his dry lips a quick lick with his tongue and took in a breath.’
    • ‘And he simply can't resist giving my muffin a playful lick as soon as my back is turned.’
    • ‘He grinned back, then gave her a lick on the cheek.’
    • ‘She nudged him with her nose, and gave him a brief lick of her long tongue before turning and trotting away.’
    • ‘I extracted slow licks from a single scoop of vanilla.’
    • ‘He does that puppy-tongue lick of his lower lip that someone should tell him to stop doing.’
    1. 1.1 A quick movement of flame, water, etc.
      • ‘‘She swears she saw a lick of flame shoot up from the opening,’ explained Chris.’
      • ‘To hundreds of varieties of eucalyptus, acacia, wattles, banksia trees, grasses and weeds, the lick of flame is a welcome trigger that kindles life in their seed pods and generates ash to fertilise the soil.’
      • ‘After only a few thousand feet, I was quite pleased to note the phantom licks of ‘flame’ had totally disappeared.’
      • ‘She groaned as that lick of flame deep inside of her flared up again.’
      • ‘Neither seemed to pay any attention to the licks of flame jetting from the angel's sword.’
      • ‘We end with a whispered prayer, a rush of wind, the lick of flames.’
      • ‘He focused all his energy on that hand, and a small lick of flame sparked to life in his palm.’
      • ‘His eyes were transfixed in a blank stare, not seeming to recognize anything around him, but focused intently upon the licks of flame that jumped and fluttered off of the burning wood beneath the cooking grate.’
      • ‘Suddenly, a lick of flame leapt from the tip of the staff.’
      • ‘Michelle smiled at Adam, and Deanna felt a tiny lick of jealousy as he smiled back.’
      • ‘I could almost see licks of flame dancing in the highly flammable, potent alcohol.’
      • ‘On the edge of the horizon, slightly to the southwest, there was a lick of flame.’
      • ‘Each small lick of flame lights another blade of grass, quickly spreading until everything is a glowing inferno of destruction.’
      • ‘The crackle and lick of the flames accompanies the chirping crickets and rustling leaves that surround him.’
      • ‘He imagined the roar and lick and gulp of flames.’
      • ‘The barrel flared at the end, frothing out a lick of flame before the second round dispersed.’
      • ‘No matter how violent matters got, no matter how high the licks of flame reached, she was always consistent.’
      • ‘My mother was standing at the kitchen window watching a column of thick black smoke rising into the sky, punctuated by the odd lick of flame.’
      • ‘Mary saw the gun pointed straight at her and then saw the small lick of flame that came out of the barrel before actually hearing the shot.’
  • 2informal A light coating or quick application of something, especially paint.

    ‘all she'd need to do to the kitchen was give it a lick of paint’
    • ‘According to the batting coach who never could hit a lick, you've got three changes - psychological, physical, and mental.’
    • ‘So maybe the cowboy boots do look kind of spiffy after a few licks of silver, purple, yellow and green.’
    • ‘We prefer big hitters who can't field a lick to gold-glove shortstops with their .243 batting averages.’
    • ‘This is about more than giving the Tories' tarnished image a quick lick of varnish.’
    • ‘A lick of paint around the windowsills and a neatly manicured lawn might impress a prospective buyer.’
    • ‘I didn't care a lick about any of them.’
    • ‘What would it cost for a lick of paint, some artificial flowers and some air fresheners?’
    • ‘I didn't care a lick about what they were talking about.’
    • ‘He doesn't give a lick about you and he'll never look your way again.’
    • ‘The day we broke up it was like the whole school suddenly got a fresh lick of paint.’
    • ‘I said to the players after the game that it had come down to a lick of paint.’
    • ‘I brought it back to London and it came up a treat after a quick lick of creosote.’
    • ‘The whole thing doesn't make a lick of sense, but it doesn't matter.’
    • ‘It's set in the corner of the stairwell, made of cheap and rather hollow-sounding wood, and could do with a lick of paint.’
    • ‘He would have been fine in the movie if the script made a lick of sense.’
    • ‘All it needs is a lick of paint and a bit of work on the kitchen.’
    • ‘The sequel gives the concept a fresh lick of paint without moving it too far forward.’
    • ‘Then, a couple of years ago, it had a lick of paint and a bit of internal surgery and, lo and behold, it changed name and nationality in one go.’
    • ‘Now who do I know who would like to buy a slightly used T-Bird that needed a lick of paint?’
    • ‘Your front door might benefit from a lick of paint too.’
    dab, bit, drop, dash, spot, touch, hint, dribble, splash, sprinkle, trickle
    View synonyms
    1. 2.1US in singular, usually with negative An extremely small amount of something abstract.
      ‘there's not a lick of suspense in the entire plot’
      • ‘There can be no doubt that you could run a fairly good marathon and never do a lick of anaerobic training.’
      • ‘I will select a swaybacked old nag without a lick of spirit.’
      • ‘Don't yet give a lick of info about yourself.’
      • ‘This kid has been to the States a few times and still doesn't speak a lick of English.’
      • ‘Having been in captivity since she was born, her parents never cared a lick about sex education.’
      • ‘The most inventive shorts are in the animation category, particularly two painstakingly made stop-motion movies with not a lick of dialogue.’
      • ‘He got this job in November without a lick of managerial experience and only three years of service as a major league coach.’
      • ‘Does this action make a lick of sense to anybody?’
      • ‘If they don't it doesn't matter a lick, though, because the music still sounds genuine - no hype required.’
      • ‘Since Yuen doesn't speak a lick of English, this feature has a voice over for us English speaking moviegoers.’
      • ‘Back then, we had hundreds of thousands of mainframe computer programs that didn't make a lick of sense to even the smartest programmer trying to read their code.’
      • ‘That doesn't do a lick of good.’
      • ‘I don't see a lick of difference, nothing.’
      • ‘And the threat levels are publicly known, so any terrorist with a lick of sense will simply wait until the threat level goes down.’
      • ‘Also, initially, he was very uncomfortable walking around Sofia by himself, as he doesn't speak a lick of Bulgarian.’
      • ‘But the fat little guy was a detriment last season, tossing up too many bad shots and not playing a lick of defense.’
      • ‘And now I look at my kids with their little, you know, video games every day, and they don't speak a lick of Spanish.’
      • ‘Sadly, none of them are worth a lick of spite.’
      • ‘All the talking in the world isn't going to make a lick of difference.’
  • 3often licksinformal A short phrase or solo in jazz or popular music.

    ‘cool guitar licks’
    • ‘There's something very personal about the relaxed, just-behind-the-beat way in which the three principals phrase the licks, riffs and melodies that define their sound.’
    • ‘The sophomore set is a slightly more grown-up and all round musical affair that at times meanders from jazz licks through ambient auras, but is ultimately built on a foundation of '80s electronica.’
    • ‘These types of impressive, hyperactive guitar licks cover much of the album.’
    • ‘An outstanding guitarist in his own right, Thompson obviously spotted the potential of George's jazz licks within the R & B idiom.’
    • ‘Each song combines similar elements - hip hop loops, cheesy retro keyboards, sampled jazz licks, and various other found sounds.’
    • ‘It features razor sharp guitar and breezy keyboard licks, but has too many fancy synth sounds.’
    • ‘Of course, he's not just a momentary idol that happens to pack a few hot hard-rock licks.’
    • ‘Moving into samba territory, the song shuffles among spicy guitar licks and a bottom-dwelling bassline.’
    • ‘Displaying boundless energy, he hopped up on the DJ booth and scratched for a bit, played a few licks on the guitar, pounded on the keyboard for a bit, then took a turn at the slide guitar and then massacred the drum kit.’
    • ‘The opening guitar licks cut through the radio's silence.’
    • ‘It's a rather fine blend of catchy chorus, guitar licks and virile vocals.’
    • ‘Her ethereal vocals soared over a backdrop of lush guitar licks, deep bass and softly crashing drums during their stunning half-hour set.’
    • ‘He plays part of a familiar blues lick, but then resolves it in entirely nonstandard fashion.’
    • ‘It hits the bullseye, with its rumbling bassline and driving, Pete Townsend-lite guitar licks.’
    • ‘It's a darker, slow-moving swirl of bluesy guitar licks in a nebula of electronic debris and feedback drone.’
    • ‘Yearning guitar licks, frenetic scratching, and bombastic drums are the order of the day on nearly all of the tracks giving the album both a cohesive and monotonous feel.’
    • ‘But he's churning out rock riffs and distorted licks, adding in some quite throaty vocals as well.’
    • ‘The music is an odd mix of very cinematic orchestral pieces, techno, and hot guitar licks.’
    • ‘Several tracks also include chilled vocals, as well as some fiery jazz licks from the clarinetist/sax player.’
    • ‘He assures the show was ‘really cool’ and that the crowd really seemed to relate to the mainstream mélange of new punk and straight up rock licks.’
  • 4informal A smart blow.

    ‘his mother gave him several licks for daring to blaspheme’
    • ‘Look like they took a helluva lick, but they ain't dead.’
    • ‘Michael got a few licks in while he could.’
    • ‘Now if it is barbaric to flog in school where it really should start, how can licks be of any help to a hard-back criminal?’
    • ‘Nearly as important as glass and magnification is a device's ability to take a few licks.’
    • ‘Many believed that you should have taken your licks and accepted the situation.’
    knock, bang, hit, punch, thump, smack, crack, thwack, buffet, jolt, stroke, rap, tap, clip
    View synonyms

Phrases

  • at a lick

    • informal At a fast pace; with considerable speed.

      • ‘Taken at a lick, the most famous of the plays, The Playboy of the Western World, is a triumph.’
      • ‘Online recruitment revenues are growing at a lick - 43 per cent year on year for the first three quarters of 2003-and are expected to grow to £200m by 2008.’
      • ‘It's fine when you're moving at a lick but it's devoid of feel at low speed.’
      • ‘Despite his absence the parliament is going up at a lick and looking more awesome by the day.’
      • ‘Soaring sales of secure routers helped the enterprise router market grow at a lick in Q1.’
      speed, rate, pace, tempo, velocity, momentum
      View synonyms
  • a lick and a promise

    • informal A hasty performance of a task, especially of cleaning something.

      • ‘The global fiat currency is based on nothing more than a lick and a promise and long-term it's headed toward complete restructuring.’
      • ‘Look at the way you skip from chore to chore, always doing everything with a lick and a promise.’
      • ‘Wobbling into the bathroom, she picked up her toothbrush and gave her teeth a lick and a promise.’
      • ‘Is one's spiritual life really satisfied with a lick and a promise?’
      • ‘The chow's coat requires more than a lick and a promise from the chow's owner.’
      • ‘Generally, players sign balls with a lick and a promise.’
  • lick someone's boots

    • Be excessively obsequious toward someone.

      be obsequious to, be sycophantic to, be servile to, curry favour with, pay court to, play up to, crawl to, creep to, ingratiate oneself with, dance attendance on, fall over oneself for, kowtow to, toady to, truckle to, bow and scrape before, grovel before, cringe before, abase oneself before
      View synonyms
  • lick one's lips (or chops)

    • Look forward to something with eager anticipation.

      • ‘He one day looked me up and down, licking his chops at me, and all that I could muster up was, ‘Don't look at me like that.’’
      • ‘I know I'll be taken to task for this stand, that many parents who are licking their chops in anticipation of getting the $1, 000 would probably want to murder me.’
      • ‘Many who live here preach bitterly of its negative impacts, while developers lick their chops in anticipation of windfall profits.’
      • ‘Some smart attorney could easily identify at least ten possible criminal acts in those two slaps, and dad would be licking his chops in anticipation of a generous court award for his son's few moments of discomfort.’
      • ‘‘They don't want to appear to be licking their chops too much,’ observes a New York University business professor.’
      • ‘But while snow begins to flutter effortlessly from the sky and wreaths begin to pop up on front doors, Canadian children everywhere smile and lick their chops in anticipation.’
      • ‘But please, let's not have the army of advisers pulling on their selling boots and licking their chops at the prospect of Christmas in the Bahamas on the back of the fat commissions about to come their way.’
      • ‘The ink isn't even dry on their most recent deficit-busting tax cut, and they're already licking their chops over their next one.’
      • ‘Plus, you'll have every proponent, project manager and contractor in the room licking their chops in anticipation.’
      • ‘Republican strategists are licking their chops at the thought of running against this guy.’
  • lick one's wounds

    • Retire to recover one's strength or confidence after a defeat or humiliating experience.

      ‘the political organization he worked for was licking its wounds after electoral defeat’
      • ‘While America and the Bahamas were celebrating, Britain's athletes were left licking their wounds.’
      • ‘Before licking your wounds and going off with your tail between your legs, learn to make fights scratch-free.’
      • ‘Devastated at being let down by her own body, she has been licking her wounds, taking stock, trying to recover the self-belief that propelled her to victory in the Olympics, the European Championships and two Commonwealth Games.’
      • ‘The objectors retreated to their homes, licking their wounds and gathering their strength for a fight against two other wind farms.’
      • ‘For now, lick your wounds, dry your tears, and regain your strength… and then we will continue the battle.’
      • ‘But while many clubs are still licking their wounds - and a few are still in intensive care - the collapse of the deal could be the best thing to have happened to football in years.’
      • ‘They are seasoned, hardened competitors who usually leave rivals licking their wounds.’
      • ‘Rarely can a Cup Final have ended in such dramatic circumstances, and while Longford rejoiced, the Waterford players retired to lick their wounds and to look forward to real life again.’
      • ‘There are a significant number of investors still licking their wounds from being over - exposed to equities from the turn of the century.’
      • ‘The loser licks his wounds and accepts the verdict.’
  • not be able to do something a lick

    • informal Be totally incompetent at the specified activity.

      ‘I couldn't sing a lick’
  • lick someone's ass

    • vulgar slang Be excessively obsequious toward someone.

      be obsequious to, be sycophantic to, be servile to, curry favour with, pay court to, play up to, crawl to, creep to, ingratiate oneself with, dance attendance on, fall over oneself for, kowtow to, toady to, truckle to, bow and scrape before, grovel before, cringe before, abase oneself before
      View synonyms

Origin

Old English liccian, of West Germanic origin; related to Dutch likken and German lecken, from an Indo-European root shared by Greek leikhein and Latin lingere.

Pronunciation

lick

/lɪk//lik/