Definition of tickle in US English:



[with object]
  • 1Lightly touch or prod (a person or a part of the body) in a way that causes itching and often laughter.

    ‘she tickled me under the chin’
    • ‘Texas burst into laughter, and fell over, Jude relentlessly tickling her.’
    • ‘He gently nuzzled his head into my neck, tickling me.’
    • ‘Liam started tickling her all over, Jess was screaming with laughter.’
    • ‘I opened my mouth to tell him not to tickle me, but couldn't because I was soon doubled over with laughter as he tickled me.’
    • ‘Del played along, tickling Jenny around her neck and arms.’
    • ‘She squealed with laughter as I started tickling her.’
    • ‘I pulled her flat against me and flipped over so I was on top and lightly tickled her.’
    • ‘Doc had a smile on his face and appeared to be dreaming, so we let him dream a little longer and then I lightly tickled him awake.’
    • ‘I smiled as we kissed, her touch tickling me slightly.’
    • ‘She grabbed a handful of grass and shoved it down my neck, tickling me mercilessly.’
    • ‘‘Good morning sexy,’ he said as he kissed her neck, tickling her with his mustache.’
    • ‘He wrapped it around his body, the soft velvet tickling his naked body.’
    • ‘I collapsed in laughter and began tickling him in earnest.’
    • ‘When he was tickled, he broke into loud laughter from time to time.’
    • ‘Claire traced her lips along Mark's neck, tickling him softly.’
    • ‘He grabbed her waist and tickled her lightly on the belly.’
    • ‘He grinned and continued tickling her until she fell off the couch in laughter.’
    • ‘The corn that grows from the ground reached over his small body, the leaves tickled his shirtless body as he passed through the towering rows.’
    • ‘Amber giggled and gasped lightly as he swirled her around while tickling her.’
    • ‘The boy had a big grin on his face and with the hand resting on her waist, he tickled her lightly.’
    stroke, pet, lightly touch, lightly prod, chuck
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1no object (of a part of the body) have a sensation of mild irritation or discomfort.
      ‘his throat had stopped tickling’
      • ‘I'd have a rabbit if they didn't make my nose tickle and my eyes itch.’
      • ‘‘Well, I can't stand it if my hair gets into my face,’ I continue, ‘cos it tickles and gets all itchy.’’
      • ‘It was an odd, creeping feeling, that made her body tickle and itch at the same time.’
      • ‘On some days though when you step outside your throat tickles slightly and your eyes water, often so little that you barely realize it.’
      • ‘My mouth got dry, my throat tickled and I started gagging.’
      • ‘It feels like a strange prickling sensation, and it tickles around my arms.’
      • ‘George crawled down the page, onto my arm - ‘That tickles!’’
      • ‘When we kiss it tickles now, but that doesn't stop that spark that's been there.’
      • ‘But it wasn't that annoying tingle that tickles so much it hurts feeling, it was a nice feeling, a pleasant feeling, that made me warm inside, it made me want to smile, and never stop.’
      • ‘I wanted him to stop, but it tickled so much that I couldn't help but laugh.’
      • ‘My eyes are tickling, there's a warm sensation in the corners.’
    2. 1.2 Touch with light finger movements.
      with object and complement ‘tickling the safe open took nearly ninety minutes’
      • ‘He tickled a ball wide down the leg side to be caught by the wicketkeeper.’
      • ‘Vicki released a slow and deep breath, her fingers absently tickling the corners of her Bible.’
  • 2Appeal to (someone's taste, sense of humor, curiosity, etc.)

    ‘here are a couple of anecdotes that might tickle your fancy’
    • ‘But if you've been keeping up to date with his latest offerings then no doubt this will tickle your fancy too.’
    • ‘The site is great to read, but I've edited and written lots of stuff I thought was worthy that didn't tickle his fancy.’
    • ‘The curtain, however, once installed, caught his attention and tickled his curiosity.’
    • ‘To tickle your taste buds, the food festival offers a wide range of dishes, including pastas, salads, soups, desserts and pizzas.’
    • ‘Why not tickle their impulses and your bottom line by carrying and displaying unique giftware and stationery items?’
    • ‘This information tickled the Professor's interest.’
    • ‘Robert carried a mysterious brown box in his arms, which tickled Tracy's cat-like curiosity.’
    • ‘‘I sketch a bit,’ she answered, his continued questions beginning to tickle her curiosity.’
    • ‘I may not know much, but I do happen to know of some interesting projects that will tickle your tailfeather.’
    • ‘Hang on, I'll keep this post open and add updates when I come across anything that'll tickle your fancy.’
    • ‘Have a go at Thai, Indian, Greek - whatever tickles your taste buds.’
    • ‘It was hard to say why anymore - at first it had been a joke, a game, and then because something about his friend's reserve tickled his curiosity.’
    • ‘Germany's bangers have lost their ability to tickle taste buds, according to the former head of the nation's biggest sausage-maker.’
    • ‘Asparagus has tickled the taste buds to such an extent this season that sales of the queen of vegetables have risen faster than any other vegetable.’
    • ‘They wander through an ancient forest and encounter creatures that tickle the curiosity of the child.’
    • ‘In that case, this film might not tickle your fancy, as it would probably just remind you of a boring day at the office.’
    • ‘These spicy and saucy ribs will tickle your taste buds and keep you coming back for more.’
    • ‘If you love the taste of passion fruit, this pink liqueur will certainly tickle your tastebuds.’
    • ‘Besides, the literary selections are the things that really tickle my fancy.’
    • ‘She had realized the silliness of her love for Mr. Knightley, and Mr. Martin's continued love had tickled her vanity.’
    stimulate, interest, appeal to, excite, arouse, captivate
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    1. 2.1usually be tickled Cause (someone) amusement or pleasure.
      ‘he is tickled by the idea’
      • ‘‘We've found that people are tickled by the idea of seeing such a familiar, everyday product used in a novel way,’ says Miller.’
      • ‘As for me, out of all the wonderful science fictiony possibilities here, the one that really tickles me is the idea of a language chip.’
      • ‘I was tickled and amused by the presentation of my waffle, but it was soggy, flaccid and certainly not as much fun to eat as it was to look at.’
      • ‘Momma was pleased, the cops were tickled, and baby just kept on dreaming.’
      • ‘I was tickled by the idea of making a film for posterity.’
      • ‘Afterwards, MacSween senior was so tickled by the idea of vegetarians venturing into a butcher's shop that he started producing the vegetarian version.’
      • ‘And I just am really tickled and pleased that we have people like our current secretary of defense and our current secretary of state.’
      • ‘On paper, the idea has tickled fans of either franchise for many a year.’
      • ‘I was always thinking that you were already my brother-in-law, and the idea just tickled me.’
      • ‘The idea of him putting on that suit tickles me.’
      • ‘Many of them were tickled at the idea of playing host to a man who might one day prominently play a role in a revolutionary Marxist movement such a long way away from their homes in Mayfair and Morningside.’
      • ‘Rafe rolled his eyes in amusement, tickled at her reaction.’
      amuse, entertain, divert, please, delight, gladden, cheer up, satisfy, gratify
      View synonyms


  • 1An act of tickling someone.

    ‘Dad gave my chin a little tickle’
    • ‘No jumping up for a tickle when I've dropped my bag and sat down on the settee.’
    • ‘It nuzzled against Aben's cheek and was rewarded with a tickle and tender words.’
    • ‘She felt his soft kiss and the tickle of his long hair on her cheek.’
    • ‘I don't often snuggle up in the mornings, so she took it as a bonus, turned over on her back and presented her tummy for a tickle, feet firmly in the air.’
    • ‘They are very cute, and with so many people poking their fingers through the cage all day long are already tame and welcome a tickle.’
    • ‘He seemed glad of the company after a long, dark winter and was soon swimming through my legs and even accepting a tickle under the chin.’
    • ‘Normally the tickler is someone who desires to express intimacy, emotion, and affection through their tickling - in other words the tickle is intended as a friendly gesture.’
    • ‘He'd make humorous, taunting faces or just out-do her hits with an unserious blow or a tickle.’
    • ‘Eventually he did and was foolish enough to come over for a tickle.’
    • ‘My mother was silent, and instead of responding, she pressed a warm hand on my stomach, and attempted a tickle.’
    • ‘When I got up, she came out from under the settee to say hello and have a tickle.’
    • ‘He wouldn't settle for any nap, and any time he looked close to being sleepy Akra Jr managed to scupper it with an inappropriate tickle, loud shout or noisy toy.’
    • ‘I hopped into the backseat of my auntie Joanne's car, next to Carla, who sat in the middle of Crystal and I, and gave her a quick tickle.’
    stroke, pet, light prod, chuck
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 A sensation like that of being lightly touched or prodded.
      ‘I had a tickle between my shoulder blades’
      • ‘And then his lips brushed lightly against her forehead, eliciting a tickle that she instinctively squirmed against.’
      • ‘However, the pain was little more than a tickle compared to his wing being cut off but it hurt none the less.’
      • ‘It wasn't a tickle or a scratch, and it didn't sting or irritate.’
      • ‘I have eschewed cough syrups and lozenges preferring to suck on the occasional spoonful of honey, which seems to soothe the tickle enough to let me get to sleep.’
      • ‘She could feel it like a tickle in the crash of sensations her body was experiencing.’
      • ‘I can't remember if Holly tucked both arms under and anyway, what if he wanted to itch a tickle on his nose?’
      • ‘I reached up to scratch a tickle on my right cheek and felt a hand not my own brushing my face gently, back and forth.’
      • ‘The man, feeling a tickle on his arm, looks down and sees the mosquito.’
      • ‘It's a barely noticeable sensation, just a whisper of a tickle.’
      • ‘It was just a tickle, and if he shifted, it would go away, but he didn't want to disturb Lex by moving.’
      • ‘I wake in a darkening room with a tickle in my arm.’
      • ‘It didn't hurt, it was more like an unpleasant tickle.’
      • ‘She felt a tickle across her ankle, shook it off and looked to see what it was.’
      • ‘I was puzzled for a moment, until I felt a slight tickle along my arm.’
      • ‘The pain was nothing more than a tickle as he floated along the black stream.’
      • ‘The point barely touched her skin; she only felt a small tickle.’
      • ‘A slight movement - a tickle really - on his left shin caught his attention.’
      • ‘I used to be able to touch her and hug her without feeling that familiar tickle up my spine, but now I couldn't.’
      • ‘Adam was the inspiration for the first of the Mr Men books when he asked his father what a tickle looked like.’
      • ‘There was blood flowing onto my leg, I could feel the tickle of the little droplets sliding.’


  • be tickled pink (or to death)

    • informal Be extremely amused or pleased.

      • ‘The few articles I saw, in my comings and goings, were so good that I was tickled pink to have had them under my name.’
      • ‘Jenna was tickled pink that Amanda would take the time to make her look good in front of her neighbours.’
      • ‘I know he would have been tickled pink, a little embarrassed and mightily amused.’
      • ‘Melanie was tickled pink when she saw his picture.’
      • ‘I'd be tickled pink to run it.’
      • ‘Almost every vendor I talked to was tickled pink with the sales they garnered.’
      • ‘I was tickled pink by your article and could not agree with you more!’
      • ‘Nurses from the new breast unit at Airedale Hospital were tickled pink by a supermarket's fundraising effort.’
      • ‘Cheery ladies from Bolton were tickled pink when they learned that laughing can make people slim.’
      • ‘‘I was tickled to death to pick up the paper and read the letters to the editor,’ he said.’
  • tickle the ivories

    • informal Play the piano.

      • ‘For a couple of hours most evenings this tousle-haired young musician tickles the ivories with an eclectic but always virtuoso style.’
      • ‘Plus, Marit strums guitar and Marion tickles the ivories.’
      • ‘But at 81, he can't tickle the ivories as smoothly as he used to.’
      • ‘A pianist is preparing to tickle the ivories for 15 hours to raise money for her church and help people battle breast cancer.’
      • ‘Williams loves to play the piano and has entertained his staff with some wonderful work tickling the ivories, as well as exhibiting a sound understanding of the nuanced area of wine appreciation.’
      • ‘The month is rounded off in style with the Alexander Brothers, one of Scotland's leading bands tickling the ivories on the 24th of the month.’
      • ‘American David Bartley might well have been a drummer if he hadn't discovered his talent for tickling the ivories!’
      • ‘Unsurprisingly, as the son of possibly the world's most famous amateur jazz pianist, Eastwood started his musical life tickling the ivories.’
      • ‘The winner of the 1992 Preston Guild Piano Competition will be tickling the ivories from 1.05 pm.’
      • ‘Anyone with an urge to tickle the ivories is free to use the grand piano in the atrium.’


Middle English (in the sense ‘be delighted or thrilled’): perhaps a frequentative of tick, or an alteration of Scots and dialect kittle ‘to tickle’ (compare with kittle).