My Garner's Usage Tip of the Day was a grab bag of entries, including one on licorice. I was more interested in the second half of the entry:
- licorice (/LiK-uh-rish/) is the standard spelling. "Liquorice" is a variant form. This word shouldn't be confused with its uncommon homophones, "lickerish" (= lascivious, lecherous) and "liquorish" (= tasting like liquor). (Emphasis added.)
According to the OED, lickerish and liquorish are altered forms of lickerous. It originally was related to the desire for good food or pleasing things, but those meanings are obsolete, leaving only the lustful meaning in the modern day. Lickerish/lickerous/liquorish has these definitions:
- 1a. (Obsolete) Pleasing or tempting to the palate. Also: Sweet, pleasant, delightful.
- 1b. (Obsolete) Of a cook: Skilful in preparing dainties.
- 2a. (Obsolete) Of persons, the appetite, etc.: Fond of choice or delicious food; dainty in eating; greedy of good fare.
- 2b. (Obsolete) Having a keen relish or desire for something pleasant. Also: eager to do something.
- 3. Lecherous, lustful, wanton.
Lickerous has this etymology: "From the Anglo-French. likerous, lekerous, representing a northern variation of Old French lecheros, meaning lecherous; compare to Old Northern French liquerie = Central Old French lecherie, meaning lechery."
These are old words. The OED's first quotation for lickerous is from 1275, and the first for lickerish is from around 1500.
Liquorish, according to the OED, has another meaning besides the one Garner gives (tasting like liquor) and that of lickerish/lickerous/liquorish. The OED says it can mean "fond of or indicating fondness for liquor," which is "an etymologizing sense-perversion of lickerish."
Sense-perversion? That, like the rest of this post, sounds vaguely dirty.