Intermediate+ Word of the Day: suck

suck (verb, noun) /sʌk/ LISTEN

Small children often suck their thumbs.

You probably know that suck means ‘to draw into the mouth by producing a partial vacuum through the action of the lips and tongue’ or ‘to apply the lips or mouth to and draw the liquid from.’ More broadly, it means ‘to draw water or air by suction’ or ‘to put into the mouth and draw upon.’ As a slang term, if something sucks, it means it’s awful. As a noun, a suck is the act of sucking.

Example sentences

  • Martha sucked lemonade through a straw.
  • Ian sucked an orange.
  • The plants suck moisture from the soil.
  • The children were sucking mints.
  • Sorry to hear you've lost your job; that sucks!
  • Jane gave the straw a quick suck.

Words often used with suck

suck up: try to please by behaving obsequiously. Example: “Neil only got that promotion because he’s always sucking up to the boss.”

suck in: fool, deceive. Example: “The con man sucked in a lot of people.”

suck face: kiss passionately. Example: “Two teenagers were sitting in the back row of the movie theater, sucking face.”

In pop culture

Everything Sucks is the title of a Netflix show and you can see the trailer for it here:

Did you know?

If you say someone is a sucker, that means they have been sucked in (fooled or deceived) or, possibly, that they often get sucked in. If you say someone is a sucker for something, it means either that they tend to get fooled by that thing (so you might say someone is a sucker for a hard luck story, for example) or that they tend to be drawn to that kind of thing (for example, a sucker for romantic movies).


Suck dates back to before the year 900. The Old English verb sūcan (souken in Middle English) can be traced back to the Proto-Germanic sucana or sugana and possibly the Proto-Indo-European root seug-, sug- or suk-, meaning ‘to suck.’ This root is somewhat disputed. Some linguists think it is imitative of the sound of sucking, while others believe that it is a variation of the root seue– (to take liquid). Suck is related to the Old Saxon and Old High German sugan, the Old Norse suga, the Danish suge, the Swedish suga, the Middle Dutch sughen, the Dutch zuigen and the German saugen (to suck), and probably the Latin sugere (to suck) and succus (juice or sap), the Spanish jugo and Italian succo (juice), the Old Irish sugim and Welsh sugno (to suck). If the Proto-Indo-European origin is indeed seue-, suck is also related to the English words sip (to take in water with the lips) and its variant sup. The slang sense, ‘to be awful,’ was first used in the 1970s. The noun, meaning ‘the act of sucking,’ comes from the verb, and dates back to around the year 1300.

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