lick at

lick at (something)

1. To lick something intensely and repeatedly. The dog just kept licking at my fingers No matter how much I lick at this suction cup, I can't get it to stick on the window.
2. Of flame, to touch or pass over something very rapidly. The flames were licking at our heels as we climbed the ladder. The fire had just begun licking at the trees when the rain began and quenched the flame.
See also: lick
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

lick at something

to draw the tongue over something repeatedly. Jimmy was just licking at the ice-cream cone, and soon it began to melt and drip off his elbow. I don't just lick at the ice cream. I take big bites of it.
See also: lick
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
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References in classic literature ?
She went straight to the church, stole to the pot of fat, began to lick at it, and licked the top of the fat off.
On a monthly average, tapirs visited the ML-1 lick at higher rates (0.54 [+ or -] 0.20 visits per night; range 0.28-0.86 visits per day, N = 16 months) than ML-2 (0.21 [+ or -] 0.15 visits per night; range 0-0.52 visits per day, N = 22 months).
Adult dogs also lick at the faces of familiar pack mates.
Bucks will paw, gnaw, and lick at anything you coat with the new BlackMagic[TM] Insta-Lick formula from Evolved Habitats[R].
IN CHARGE: Linden Kitson, the managing director of Lick at Elland