a. To beat, thrash. Also, to drive (something) out of (a person) by thrashing. †to lick off: to cut off clean, to slice off.
1535 W. Stewart tr. H. Boethius Bk. Cron. Scotl. (1858) I. 144 Leggis war likkit of hard of at the kne.
1567 T. Harman Caueat for Commen Cursetors (new ed.) s.v. (Farmer) Lycke, to beate.
1719 A. Ramsay Epist. to Hamilton vi May I be licket wi' a bittle, Gin of your numbers I think little.
1732 H. Fielding Mock Doctor i. ii Suppose I've a mind he should drub, Whose bones are they, Sir, he's to lick?
1775 F. Burney Jrnl. Nov. in Early Jrnls. & Lett. (1990) II. 178 As for..your Father, I could lick him for his affected Coolness & moderation.
1828 C. Darwin in F. Darwin Life & Lett. C. Darwin (1888) I. 167 How those poor dogs must have been licked.
1857 T. Hughes Tom Brown's School Days i. viii. 191 Say you won't fag—they'll soon get tired of licking you.
1879 C. H. Spurgeon Serm. XXV. 542 Almost as free as America in the olden time, when every man was free to lick his own nigger.
1881 Atlantic Monthly 49 41 Well, I've tried to lick the badness out of him... You can, out of some boys, you know.
b. To overcome, get the better of; to excel, surpass. it licks me: I cannot explain it. Also to lick into fits: to defeat thoroughly.
1800 in Spirit of Public Jrnls. (1801) 4 232 By Dane, Saxon, or Pict We had never been lick'd Had we stuck to the king of the island.
1836 F. B. Head Let. in S. Smiles Publisher & Friends (1891) II. xxxi. 366 I believe we shall lick the radicals.
1847 T. De Quincey Milton v. Southey & Landor in Tait's Edinb. Mag. Apr. 253/2 Greece was..proud..of having licked him [sc. an enemy].
1879 E. Walford Londoniana I. 37 If we have a war and beat Russia or lick Abyssinia into fits.
1889 ‘R. Boldrewood’ Robbery under Arms xxiv It licked me to think it had been hid away all the time.
1890 ‘R. Boldrewood’ Colonial Reformer (1891) 195 As a seller of unparalleled generosity, we can't be licked.
1900 Speaker 8 Sept. 618 We must either lick and rule these savages or run away.
1861 T. Hughes Tom Brown at Oxf. I. xii. 228 I believe that a gentleman will always lick in a fair fight.