What Does “Licking it Into Shape” Mean and Where Did the Expression Come From?

When bear cubs are born, like many other newborn animals, they are covered by an amniotic membrane.

To ancient people who observed the birth from a considerably safe distance, these cubs looked shapeless until their mothers would lick away the membrane to reveal the perfectly shaped body of the baby bear.

Dating from Roman times, this belief gave us the expression for making something right by licking it into shape.

When creating or correcting something, we say we’re “licking it into shape”.