She lapped with a flat tongue from top to bottom, over and over again lathering it with her saliva.

I would personally say "lapped it with", but it seems we can use the verb as an intransitive. It seems odd though, because we see in the definition itself "something" referring to the direct object.

  1. To wind around or enfold something. (Your Dictionary)

The same definition has a transitive form, which is weird to me.

  1. To wrap or wind around (something); encircle. (Your Dictionary)

So can we use it in the intransitive form, or is it an error?

It also seems like the fourth definition is similar to the third, but it doesn't have an intransitive form. Why is that?

We can say:

Those are the models who were lapped in expensive furs.

As well as:

The men lapped the models in expensive furs.

However, we cannot say:

The men lapped in expensive furs as the models undressed themselves.

  • 1
    I would take it to mean the other definition of the verb to lap - to take up food or drink with the tongue, even though no substance is mentioned here as being taken in. Commented Aug 15, 2020 at 7:26
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    Despite the "yuck" of its original and explicit context, there is still a valid question here, related to how (and even whether) transitive verbs like "lap" and "lick" can function without an, *ahem*, explicit direct object. Commented Aug 15, 2020 at 14:42
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    @MichaelHarvey OK I found the source too, but I fail to see any reason that this question should be closed. I trust that the OP has done their best to keep the quotation and the question kosher and I think that merits acknowledgement from us as opposed to banishment or shaming. The question, to its credit, is reasonably researched and presented, and is well within the scope of on-topic ELL questions.
    – Eddie Kal
    Commented Aug 15, 2020 at 14:56
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    @MichaelHarvey Huh? I don't know where you get the "misogynistic" stuff from. The source site may or may not have misogynistic stuff, I don't know. I haven't researched it deep enough. But I did read several paragraphs surrounding the quoted line. No, it is not fellatio. It's cunnilingus. But I know, big difference. My point is neither the OP nor their question represent the source site or other stuff on there.
    – Eddie Kal
    Commented Aug 15, 2020 at 15:43
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    @MichaelHarvey Barring context, I immediately thought of the first sentence in the sense of a dog lapping at a ball, chew toy, or some other such thing. Even if it is used in the context of sex, I don't think there's anything "yucky" about sex. That might be a reason to downvote or flag (in the extreme), but not to close it. I voted to close this for a lack of research because no citation or link was given to the definitions provided. Nor do I think it valid to say that the final sentence cannot be said, especially not without explaining why; however, it's actually grammatical, just unusual. Commented Aug 15, 2020 at 16:19

2 Answers 2


She lapped with a flat tongue…

“lapped” in this example is transitive, like a cat lapping water or milk, but the object is implied by the context.

  • Your answer should be more specific. The OP's difficulty, as is common among learners, is that the dictionary tells them "lap" is transitive, but they encounter an intransitive use in a sentence and get puzzled. To answer this kind of question, normally you need to cite other examples and/or authoritative sources, and show the intransitive usage is also (1) legit and idiomatic. Or explain why the OP's example is (2) an exception but still idiomatic (3) non-idiomatic.
    – Eddie Kal
    Commented Aug 16, 2020 at 16:55
  • @EddieKal As stated in my answer, I don’t believe it is and intransitive use but rather a transitive use with an implied object.
    – StephenS
    Commented Aug 16, 2020 at 16:57
  • Okay, fair enough. I'd still try and flesh it out a bit.
    – Eddie Kal
    Commented Aug 16, 2020 at 16:58
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    @EddieKal Give the sensitivity of the subject matter, I specifically avoided discussing the flesh. The answer seems straightforward once you know said flesh is an implied object.
    – StephenS
    Commented Aug 16, 2020 at 17:06
  • You finish your homework while I lap. Regardless of what you think lap means, there's no reason to think that it can't be used intransitively. Commented Aug 17, 2020 at 17:20

It is possible when you simply want to say what someone is doing, and don't care to what/who that action is directed.

This is rare and probably happens most often when you are reconstructing a scene for someone wanting to know what happened, or are otherwise focused on which action as opposed to the receipient of that action.

You'll usually use a progressive/continuous sense when you do this.

What was Sara doing? She was hitting with the bat. (For some reason we don't care at all what she might have been hitting. The question what was she hitting really doesn't matter or is being unsaid because it's been repeated a lot earlier).

The main problem is that the definition of lap you have doesn't give you the full story.

Lap as a verb in this sense is exclusively used to mean wrap your tongue around something or use a curling motion with your tongue to get something such as water or other liquid to consume.

So for something to lap X it has to have the ability to lick and must have a tongue. It's also generally used phrasally with up or at. A dog can be said to lap up water from its water dish, for example.

Those are the models who were lapped in expensive furs.

To make this work, we have to be creative/literary and create a context where the "expensive furs" are figuratively behaving as tongues. You might do this if you are a writer, but you wouldn't say this in ordinary speech. In ordinary speech you would say wrapped.


The expensive furs lapped at those models bodies like seductive serpents of luxury.

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