General English


  • noun a tiny parasite that sucks blood from the skin.


  • noun a mark on paper to show that something is correct or that something is approved
  • noun one step (up or down) in the price of a government bond or of financial futures



  • noun a small insect which attaches itself to an animal’s skin in order to suck its blood


  • noun a sign written in the margin to show that the typeset text is correct


  • adjective excellent, attractive. This all-purpose vogue term, heard especially among young black speakers in the late 1990s, usually indicates admiration of someone’s appearance or physique. Although it is the afro-Caribbean pronunciation of thick, the word more probably refers to a tick as a mark of approval.
  • noun a smaller, and often younger, school pupil, usually one considered insignificant and irritating. A traditional public-school term which is still heard today, it likens the person to the parasitic insect.
  • noun hire purchase, short-term credit. Tick meant ‘credit’ in post-17th-century slang. It has survived mainly in the phrase ‘on tick’.

Origin & History of “tick”

English now has no fewer than four distinct words tick in general use. The oldest, tick ‘mite’ (OE), comes from a prehistoric west Germanic *tik-, which may be related to Armenian tiz ‘bug’. Tick ‘sound of a clock, mark of correctness, etc’ (13th c.) originally meant broadly ‘light touch, tap’; its modern uses are secondary and comparatively recent developments (‘sound of a clock’ appears to have evolved in the 16th century, and ‘mark of correctness’ did not emerge until the 19th century). Tickle (14th c.) is probably a derivative. Tick ‘mattress case’ (15th c.) was borrowed from middle Dutch tēke, which went back via Latin thēca to Greek thḗkē ‘cover, case’. And tick ‘credit’ (17th c.) (as in on tick) is short for ticket.