Lickety-Split —Its Meaning and Origin


To do something “lickety-split” is to do it quickly, without delay.

Example: The radiator in my car was busted, so I had it taken in for repair. They fixed the problem lickety-split and I was back driving on the road hours later. (In other words, they fixed his car really fast.)

1. As fast as greased lightning
2. In a jiffy
3. In the blink of an eye

The Origin Of Lickety-Split

What is known about the origin of this phrase? Not much, from what I’ve seen. The word “lickety” looks like it derived from the word “lick.” Then the word “split” is attached to the end of this expression. What does any of that have to do with speed? An odd phrase, for sure.

The earliest I have seen this saying in print is the mid-19th century. For example, it makes an appearance in the newspaper Adams Sentinel, 1847:

“On we went, lickity-split, the harrycame blowed harder, the timbers began to creak, the sails split to ribbons, some of the spars begun to snap and go by the board, and then all at once there was a terrible cry, ‘breakers ahead!’ “

From the quote, you might have noticed it mentioned a “harrycame.” I checked the newspaper twice, even zooming in on that part to make sure it was spelled in that way, and it was. I’m not sure what that word means or if its just a misspelling, but looking at the context, it sounds like a “hurricane” is being talked about. Anyways, more to the point, this quote shows that this expression is at least 170 years old.

Example Sentences

  • I have a flight to catch in an hour, so I need to get ready lickety-split to make sure I don’t miss it.

Similar Examples:

  • I told my daughter that if she cleaned up her room, she could have ice-cream afterwards. Needless to say, her room became spotless in a jiffy.
  • I’ll have dinner ready in the blink of an eye, don’t you worry!

Tip: This website has the meanings of phrases — hundreds of them, in fact! We have different categories for animal, food, and sports expressions. To find these categories, tap the site’s logo at the top and scroll down a bit. Or if you are looking for a specific phrase, select a letter from the upper menu and browse through the phrase’s list.