Green’s Dictionary of Slang

lick n.2

[SE lick, a blow]

1. [mid-18C+] an effort, an attempt at something.

2. [mid-19C+] (Aus./N.Z./US) a (short) sprint; intensified as lick of one’s life.

3. [mid-19C+] (US) a rhythm or pace, spec. on the chain gang.

4. constr. with the.

(a) [mid-19C+] (US/US black/W.I.) the correct thing, the proper course of action.

(b) [1940s+] (orig. W.I.) the very best, the supremely fashionable.

5. [1910s+] (later black) a turn, a ‘go’, an attempt; thus one-lick, once only.

6. [1930s+] (US Und.) a theft.

7. [1930s+] (orig. US) a particular phrase of music, i.e. a guitar lick.

8. [1940s+] (US black) a plan, an idea, a scheme.

9. [1960s+] fig. what one does, an action, one’s personal preference.

10. [1970s] (US black) an opportunity.

11. [1990s+] (drugs) a puff on a crack cocaine pipe.

In phrases

hit a lick (v.) [2000s] (US prison)

1. to come into money.

2. to masturbate.

3. to commit armed robbery.

hit a lick (at a snake) (v.) (also hit a tap)

[1920s+] (US) to make an effort; usu. in negative combs. implying laziness on behalf of the subject of the phr. e.g. He hasn’t hit a lick all week.

lick that killed Dick, the (n.)

[1950s–60s] (US black) the last straw.

what the lick read?

[2000s+] (US black) a phr. of greeting.