\ ˈlik \
licked; licking; licks

Definition of lick 

(Entry 1 of 2)

transitive verb

1a(1) : to draw the tongue over

(2) : to flicker over like a tongue

b : to take into the mouth with the tongue : lap

2a : to strike repeatedly : thrash

b : to get the better of : overcome, defeat

intransitive verb

1 : to lap with or as if with the tongue

2 : to dart like a tongue

lick into shape

: to put into proper form or condition

lick one's chops

: to feel or show eager anticipation

lick one's wounds

: to recover from defeat or disappointment



Definition of lick (Entry 2 of 2)

1a : an act or instance of licking

b : a small amount : bit couldn't swim a lick

c : a hasty careless effort

2a : a sharp hit : blow

b : a directed effort : crack usually used in plural usually used in the phrase get in one's licks

3a : a natural salt deposit (such as a salt spring) that animals lick

b : a block of often medicated saline preparation given to livestock to lick

4 : a musical figure specifically : an interpolated and usually improvised figure or flourish

5 : a critical thrust : dig, barb

lick and a promise

: a perfunctory performance of a task

Keep scrolling for more

Examples of lick in a Sentence


He licked the stamp before putting it on the envelope. The dog licked at the plate. She licked the sauce off her finger. The cat licked the milk off her paws. Flames were already licking the ceiling. Flames were already licking at the ceiling.


Could I have a lick of your ice cream? It just needs a lick of paint.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

This latest instability comes as the European banking sector continues to lick its wounds from the continent’s last debt crisis. Giovanni Legorano, WSJ, "Who’s Most Vulnerable to Italy’s Troubles? Europe’s Banks," 30 May 2018 The pair was surprised to see themselves on the jumbotron before Kutcher comically licked his lips and went in for a kiss. Stephanie Petit,, "Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis Return to One of Their Favorite Date Spots: a Dodgers Game!," 12 Apr. 2018 But ants that had nest-mates that licked their wounds only died 10 percent of the time. Kiona N. Smith, Ars Technica, "In wars with termites, ants rescue and care for their wounded," 14 Feb. 2018 And then then shakes my hand and pulls up and licks my hand. Gabe Bergado, Teen Vogue, "“Stranger Things” Stars Gaten Matarazzo and Noah Schnapp Reveal the Weirdest Fan Interactions at SAG Awards 2018," 22 Jan. 2018 By Friday morning, Squish was jumping around and later licking food. René A. Guzman, San Antonio Express-News, "San Antonio rescue dog inspires with one eye and a semicolon face," 9 Jan. 2018 Dogs, distracted by the snack, can lick away while owners give them a bath. Hannah Lang, charlotteobserver, "SC dogs become celebrities after 10 million watch their adorable bath time video," 30 May 2018 Here are the top power brokers, interest groups, and ideologies that notched victories, or got licked, on Primary Day. Holly Otterbein,, "The biggest winners and losers in Pennsylvania's 2018 primary election," 17 May 2018 Pitt's offense may be better than last year, but its pass defense is abysmal. Brandon Wimbush (or maybe Ian Book) will be licking his chops. Matthew Glenesk, Indianapolis Star, "Ranking Indiana's top 50 college football games in 2018," 11 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

At the same time, the lick doesn’t violate any specific game rule. Michael Mccann,, "A Look at the Possible Consequences of Brad Marchand's Tactic of Licking Opponents," 6 May 2018 After the two massive dog walks, a variety of competitions ensued, including a musical chairs sitting contest, talent challenge, costume contest and a peanut butter lick-off challenge. Mark Graves,, "Over 4,000 dogs flood Waterfront Park for Doggie Dash 2018," 12 May 2018 Eleven lick sites - 10 human-made and one natural - were sampled from 2012-'15. Paul A. Smith, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "UW researchers verify chronic wasting disease prions at mineral lick sites," 2 May 2018 Marchand licks Komarov Marchand upped his intensity from the regular season, and delivered a first-round lick to Komarov’s face after the two exchanged shots. Nick Schwartz, For The Win, "A strange history of Brad Marchand kissing and licking NHL players," 5 May 2018 If a wild animal—or even a pet that’s acting strangely—licks, scratches, bites, or touches you, head to the doctor ASAP, Dr. Willoughby says. Lindsey Lanquist, SELF, "A 6-Year-Old Boy Died From a Rabies Infection After Being Scratched by a Bat," 18 Jan. 2018 There are still unfortunates among us who have yet to lean forward and squint in disbelief at the grainy YouTube images capturing Tharpe, necklines high and hemlines low, coaxing the first, fiery licks from her Gibson SG. Andrea Simakis,, "'Marie and Rosetta' brings the music and moxie of Rock Hall inductee Sister Rosetta Tharpe to Cleveland Play House (Preview)," 21 Jan. 2018 Not so forgotten that an errant slip of the paddle, let alone a campsite, on the wrong side of the line – if you get caught – isn't enough to get you into a lick of trouble. Peter Lewis, The Christian Science Monitor, "'Northland' is an entertaining trip along America's 4,000-mile northern border," 3 July 2018 While such a fragrant addition would have been pretty cool when saliva was part of the attachment process (lick-and-taste stamps, anyone?), hard to see how scents released by fingernail will rescue the postal service. Scott Craven, USA TODAY, "Here's the scratch-n-sniff stamp scents we really wish the USPS would unveil," 21 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'lick.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of lick


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a(1)


1603, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for lick


Middle English, from Old English liccian; akin to Old High German leckōn to lick, Latin lingere, Greek leichein

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about lick

Dictionary Entries near lick








Statistics for lick

Last Updated

22 Sep 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for lick

The first known use of lick was before the 12th century

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for lick



English Language Learners Definition of lick

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: to pass the tongue over (a surface, an object, etc.)

: to take (something) into your mouth with your tongue

: to lightly touch or go over (a surface)



English Language Learners Definition of lick (Entry 2 of 2)

: the act of passing your tongue over something : the act of licking something

: a small amount

: a hard hit


\ ˈlik \
licked; licking

Kids Definition of lick

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : to pass the tongue over I licked the spoon.

2 : to touch or pass over like a tongue They saw flames licking a wall.

3 : to hit again and again : beat

4 : to get the better of : defeat The home team licked their opponents.

Other words from lick

licking noun When Mom finds out, you're going to get a licking.



Kids Definition of lick (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : the act of passing the tongue over

2 : a small amount My sister never did a lick of work.

3 : a place ( salt lick ) where salt is found or provided for animals

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on lick

What made you want to look up lick? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


an open space surrounded by woods

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Name that Food Quiz

Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!