Green’s Dictionary of Slang

lick v.1

[SE lick, a blow; esp. in W.I. combs. e.g. lick up, stir up; lick down, knock or fling to the ground; lick ’way, strike or cut off (as in a tree branch)]

1. to beat, to thrash; thus lick out of, to change someone’s character/beliefs/actions by a threat of violence, to ‘knock it out of’ someone.

[UK]Stewart Cron. Scot. (1858) I 144: Leggis war likkit of hard of at the kne [OED].
[UK]C. Johnson Hist. of Highwaymen &c 354: He cries out Cat-Whore! opens the Door in great haste, and runs out with his Stirrup full drive to lick Puss.
[UK]Fielding Tom Jones (1959) 179: It’s weel vor un I could not get at un: I’d a lick’d un.
[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.
[UK]Burns Second Epistle to Davie in Works (1842) 4/2: I’m tauld the Muse ye ha’e negleckit; An gif it’s sae, ye sud be licket.
[UK]Sporting Mag. Mar. XXIII 352/1: Tom licks him, I’ll lay you a copper.
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum.
[US]N.-Y. American 23 Feb. 2/4: And then big Celia told Mary that if she did not knock Eliza down, she would lick her for being a coward, and then Mary up fist, and knocked Eliza down, and then they fit it out.
[UK]W. Clarke Every Night Book 82: Poor Hen Pearce [...] would have challenged and licked the ex-champion very handsomely.
[UK] ‘Pugilistic Feats Of Jack Scroggins’ Lummy Chaunter 57: He mill’d that crusty blade, and lick’d him for a foe!
[UK]Egan ‘Bould Yeoman’ in Farmer Musa Pedestris (1896) 137: Twas cut for cut while it did last, / Thrashing, licking, hard and fast, / Hard milling for the gold.
[Aus]Bell’s Life in Sydney 14 Apr. 3/3: Admitting that he was given to liquor (lick her).
[US]Life in Boston & N.Y. (Boston, MA) 6 Apr. n.p.: [H]e would lick the first man that attempted to stop him.
[UK]‘Cuthbert Bede’ Adventures of Mr Verdant Green (1982) I 6: The peculiar knack the second master possessed of finding out all your tenderest places when he licked a feller for a false quantity.
[UK](con. 1840s–50s) H. Mayhew London Labour and London Poor III 381/2: My parents were very harsh; so I ran away, rather than be licked for ever.
[US]Criminal Life (NY) 19 Dec. n.p.: Pooh! he can’t like a one year old infant .
[US]W.H. Thomes Slaver’s Adventures 37: Hab a grand fight, and we care no which lick.
[UK]Proc. Old Bailey 15 Dec. 251: I said ‘I would not fight if I were you; you know if you get licked [i.e. whipped in prison] where you will be sent to’.
[US]J.F. Macardle Moko Marionettes 5: It’s losing dem Babes licks me!
[US]St Paul Dly Globe (MN) 24 May 1/4: What er yer talkin’ ebout? Ye never licked ennybody in yer life.
[Aus]‘Rolf Boldrewood’ Robbery Under Arms (1922) 327: What a chap he is; you can’t lick him.
[Aus]Dead Bird (Sydney) 26 July 2/4: Licked! licked! Why, you rabbit, do you think learning how to box gives you sand?
[UK]Boy’s Own Paper 13 Nov. 104: Look here, Mobsley, if you read any more sickly rot like that, I’ll lick you.
[US]H. Green Actors’ Boarding House (1906) 53: Lick him yourself, ef you wanter!
[US]J. Lait ‘Charlie the Wolf’ in Beef, Iron and Wine (1917) 72: [He is] only a con-man what couldn’t lick nobody.
[US]J. Callahan Man’s Grim Justice 4: He could lick more cops than any other three men.
[WI]A. Durie One Jamaica Gal 7: You no hear say how Mattie lick Joe wid sugar cane stick las’ night?
[UK](con. 1939) R. Westerby Mad in Pursuit 170: Six rounds. I’ll lick ’im.
[US]J. Wilson in Heller In This Corner (1974) 69: I had no trouble licking him in 12 rounds.
[UK]‘Q’ Deadmeat 152: [I] roll up mi lef fis an lick im cross im nose bridge.
[UK](con. c.1945) A. Wheatle Island Songs (2006) 53: Him cyan’t jus’ lick down everybody who ah vex him.
[UK]A. Wheatle Crongton Knights 80: It was agreed that the fed who licked my leg with the car door apologise.

2. to defeat, to overcome, to be victorious.

[UK] in Spirit of Public Journals IV 232: By Dane, Saxon, or Pict We had never been lick’d Had we stuck to the king of the island .
[UK]Egan Bk of Sports 27: The Hero of the Prize Ring — the pride of the Tennis Court, to be licked in twenty-five minutes, and by an Out-side Boxer — a Yokel!!!
[Aus]Bell’s Life in Sydney 30 Jan. 2/1: Flemming then challenged him to fight, alleging that he was able to lick him [...] and all the family of Smiths, numerous as they were.
[US] ‘Ruff Sam’s Bear Fight’ Spirit of the Times 4 Mar. (N.Y.) 14: The bar was dead, an’ me an’ Boss had licked her!
[UK]Fights for the Championship 42: Molineaux [...] took it into his head that he could lick the Champion.
[UK]T. Hughes Tom Brown at Oxford (1880) 130: A gentleman will always lick in a fair fight.
[US] ‘Bull-Whacker’s Epic’ in J.H. Beadle Life in Utah 227: I can like the rascal that yokes an ox of mine.
[UK]Bristol Magpie 9 Nov. 11/1: Here’s a fine sample of ‘Helix hortenses,’ / He licks all that we ever saw before.
[Aus]‘Rolf Boldrewood’ Robbery Under Arms (1922) 207: There he was first chop. You couldn’t lick him for quality.
[UK]G.R. Sims ‘Rigadoon’ Dagonet Ditties 118: A kid could lick him on its head.
[Aus]Lone Hand (Sydney) Aug. 436/1: ‘A gold-field which licks Kalgoorlie, a diamond-field that will eclipse Kimberley’.
[Can]R. Service ‘Lost’ in Ballads of a Cheechako 131: I’m going to lick this blizzard; I’m going to live the night.
[US]F.P. Dunne Mr Dooley Says 16: Andhrew Jackson [...] licked th’ British at Noo Orleans be throwin cotton bales at thim.
[US]Harrisburgh Teleg. (PA) 19 Aug. 3/2: ‘You’ve licked me at every turn, but I’m in Oxford again on the quiet, just to see if I can’t get at you again somehow’.
[US](con. 1910s) J.T. Farrell Young Lonigan in Studs Lonigan (1936) 3: He didn’t know whether or not he could lick Weary.
[US]N. Algren Man with the Golden Arm 55: It wouldn’t look dignified, a big fat hound like him lickin’ a poor skinny little old [...] cat.
[Aus]D. Niland Big Smoke 29: You think because Johnson licked me I’m in the gutter.
[UK](con. 1920s) J. Sparks Burglar to the Nobility 7: he could lick any many his size in Camberwell.
[UK]K. Amis letter 2 Apr. in Leader (2000) 623: Reputedly cold in winter, which oil heaters and such will lick.
[US]P. Hamill Flesh and Blood (1978) 245: He doesn’t think you can lick this jig.
[UK]G. Small Ruthless 238: We lick [clamp] down ’pon it hard.
[UK]Guardian Rev. 26 Feb. 8: All three looked to have licked the system and joined the Hollywood pantheon.
[SA]Izikhotane News (S. Afr.) 12 Mar. 🌐 Zikhotane which loosely translates as ‘The Lickers’ is indicative of a Caribbean British slang, where to get ‘licked’ is to be beaten, bested or trumped.

3. (US) to move fast; also as lick it.

[US]L.W. Garrard Wah-to-Yah and the Taos Trail 167: How they did ‘lick’ it over the ground!
[UK]R.S. Surtees Facey Romford’s Hounds 265: Yess, ar seed him [...] a-goin’as ivir he could lick.
[US]Outing (N.Y.) IX 198/1: He’d nothing ter do but ter lick it like blazes [DAE].
[US]W.N. Harben Westerfelt 222: Toot drove nipity-tuck down the street [...] as fast as he could lick it.
[UK]C. Holme Lonely Plough (1931) 229: How Lup Whinnerah turned tail on Canada [...] and ran home as hard as he could lick.
[US]‘Hal Ellson’ Rock 5: Zoom, zoom, you hear cars licking past.
[WI]V.S. Naipaul House For Mr Biswas 493: ‘I run in more cars than you,’ Jagdat said angrily. [...] ‘He will lick it up,’ Ajodha repeated.

4. (also lick down) to shoot.

[UK]Indep. Rev. 3 July 7: Not gun-shots and licking people down.
[UK]G. Krauze What They Was 71: I say fam I wanna lick this pagan down [...] and he says [...] you got the strap?

5. (UK black) in fig. use of sense 1, to effect emotionally.

[UK]A. Wheatle Crongton Knights 23: She’s on a downer. She’s well upset [...] Can’t you see how trauma is licking her?

6. (UK black) to rob, to steal, to break into.

[UK]G. Krauze What They Was 88: I told him about this yard [...] with the back window open and he said come we lick it.
Central Cee ‘Committment Issues’ 🎵 If I can’t afford that bag that you want then I would lick that for you.

In compounds

lick-up (adj.)

(UK black) overcome by drink or drugs.

[UK]N. Barlay Crumple Zone 152: I can take a pina colada. I had three in a row [...] Din do nu’in for me. — Liar. You was lick up so bad I had to put your hands on the handlebars innit.

In phrases

lick-a-shot (adj.)

aggressive, menacing.

[UK]G. Malkani Londonstani (2007) 122: With his neck raised now an givin it another lick-a-shot flick with his right hand.
lick a shot (v.)

(orig. W.I.) to shoot at.

[WI]Shabba Ranks ‘Wicked in bed’ 🎵 BAM BAM!!! Lick a shot inna a mama-man head.
[US]Snoop Doggy Dogg ‘Pump Pump’ 🎵 Lick em up shot, it don’t stop, till dem all drop.
K. Kwei-Armah Plays I 12: Digger Man fe dead lick a shot inna informer man head.
lick creation (v.)

(US) to be really amazing, to be beyond the bounds of possibility; also attrib.

[UK]London Society Feb. 117/1: Of course in a great country that licks creation.
[UK]Musical World (London) 2 Sept. n.p.: The memory of the three days of excruciating pain of Bayreuth ‘licks creation’.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 29 May 2/4: Tasmanian 300-ton barques ‘lick creation.’ The Harriet McGregor’s last voyage to London was 79 days.
[UK]Bristol Magpie 9 Nov. 11/1: No; here it is just coming to the station, / ‘Helix Pomatia,’ but she licks creation.
[UK]A. Riley Gems from Our Village 63: Rugby or Association, ’tis the darling of the nation, Full of go and fascination, Game of games, that licks creation.
[UK]Illus. Police Budget 7 Jan. 4/1: ‘Now, my bold bruiser [...] I have heard about your tiger-like temper; also your smashing bragging, and lick-creation propensities’.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 20 Aug. 43/1: ‘Fill ’em up!’ ‘I’ll bet a dollar / An’ a half agin a dime / Yew an’ me kin lick creation / Into splinters every time.’.
[UK]C. Holme Lonely Plough (1931) 24: Licks creation! Stuns the stars!
[UK]L.J. Miln in a Shantung Garden 204: ‘The Street that licks creation,’ he told her with a laugh. He had not supposed that there was any one on Earth who had never heard of Broadwa.
lick into fits (v.)

to beat comprehensively.

[UK]Lincs. Chron. 9 Apr.6/1: We fully expect to see The Ban lick him into fits for the [...] Newmarket Triennial.
Ballou’s Mthly Mag. (Boston, MA) Oct. 351/2: Look hire — old Bonypart, [...] if you don’t lem me go, I’ll lick you into fits.
[UK]Leics. Mercury 24 Aug. 8/5: he heard one of the yankee officers say they would lick John Bull into fits, lick Napoleon into fits, and lick creation into fits.
[UK]Western Gaz. 14 May 3/2: As if the British could not lick the Yankee into fits.
[UK]C. Hindley Life and Adventures of a Cheap Jack 104: I’ll have a --- devil that will lick yours into fits.
A. Besant Our Corner I 21: We’re going to lick you into fits; so look out.
[UK]Hartlepool Mail 4 Oct. 3/2: [advt] Who in your opinion Are the best Clothiers and Hatters? [...] I have not the slightest hesitation saying Bennison Brothers Lick in the others into fits.
[UK]Chelmsford Chron. 18 May 3/4: Tjhey talk about the Boers’ shooting. Our men can lick them into fits at it.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 15 Dec. 23/1: Bah! Lies! Lies! My son will lick you into fits for that, sir! I’ve a mind to hit you in the ear myself!
[Scot]Dundee Courier 11 July 4/2: It is a wonderful device [...] Compared with the work of the scullerymaid, it can lick her into fits in the art of dish-washing.
lick shot (v.) (W.I./UK black teen)

1. to fire a shot from a real or imaginary gun to signal appreciation of music or an event.

[WI]Francis-Jackson Official Dancehall Dict. 31: Lick shot firing a gun or imitating its sound (done at the Dancehall as a mark of respect for the performing artiste).

2. to fire a gun; also attrib.

[UK]V. Headley Yardie 53: Any lickle t’ing, dem lick shot.
[UK]‘Q’ Deadmeat 260: We ah go tun dis yah rave een tu ah lick shot party.
lick someone’s jacket (v.)

see under jacket n.

lick the socks off (v.)

(US) to beat comprehensively.

Theatre Annual 45: ‘Clear for a fight,’ ‘Lam in, Jake,’ ‘Lick the socks off’n him, stranger’.
[US]Cape Girardeau Democrat (MO) 5 May 7/2: Well, now [...] I’m goin’ t’ lick the socks clean off you.
S.G. Blythe Hunkins 284: I told him you will lick the socks off him, and that closed the conversation.
Paper Mill and Wood Pulp News 44 38/2: l’ve got ten dollars up that the office boys will lick the socks off the warehouse men.
G.M. Dean Jim of the Press 110: You’ll be out of the county tournament, and we’ll have a chance to lick the socks off your team then.
Missouri Historical Review 37 137: The champion [...] stuck out his chest, hooked his thumbs under his arm pits in the age old gesture of conceit, and belligerently declared he could lick the socks off anyone.
[US]Congressional Record 102:7 9417/3: I hope you go on to lick the socks off of their candidate in the primary.
J.C. Malin Confounded Rot about Napoleon 178: Get us a war with some of these pestering nations we have on the face of the globe, lick the socks off them, and then compel the payment of an indemnity of 2 billion dollars.
A. Kelly How to Make Your Life Easier at Work 144: If you can’t lick the socks off the inflation rate every week and every year, you should be sacked.
A. Seager Glass House 68: He would be shouting beneath my window at 8 o’clock, impatiently insisting that I get up and out to the tennis courts with him so he could lick the socks off me.
R.B. Graham Blessings for a Mother’s Day [ebook] I seem to have been infected with a kind of deadly spiritual pacifism, an unwillingness to roll up my sleeves and lick the socks off the devil.
sweet-lick (v.)

(UK black) to apply deodorant.

[UK](con. 1981) A. Wheatle East of Acre Lane 171: Sweet-lick your armpits, slap on some clothes an’ meet me at de blues.

In exclamations

licks me!

a general excl. of incomprehension.

[UK]Gem 23 Mar. 8: ‘Guess it licks me!’ he muttered.