1. To get it. The sound made when it all starts to fit together.
    Things were just starting to click, when I was rudely interrupted.
  2. To achieve flow state.
    Things were just starting to click, when I was rudely interrupted.
  3. To get along, particularly with a love interest.
    Things were just starting to click, when I was rudely interrupted.
Years of experience have led me to the conclusion that the idea of anything "clicking" is an illusion.

You know what I'm talking about. Those movies where, about halfway through, after the exposition and much of the conflict, but before the triumphant ending, they show the main character engaged in the activity he or she fumbled through during the early parts of the movie, usually to music suitable for cruising.

And then amazingly, when they fade the pumping bass of the song out, and there stands the newly discovered master in uniform, any shred of the incompetent loser completely vanished. Amazingly, this character no longer makes mistakes or finds their craft challenging. This is usually affirmed by the inevitable test of their newfound skills. This, my friends, is the moment when it has "clicked."

Sadly enough, I used to believe this farce. I would work on things and practice things, waiting for them to click, and frustration would overcome me each time my progress was steady but so slow as sometimes not even to be noticable.

So in case anyone else is still victim to this flawed notion, allow me to share: getting good takes work. Nothing more, nothing less. You may have an initial boost that comes easy, this is the result of talent. However, if you want to really progress, you simply have to work. Additionally, being good doesn't mean you won't make mistakes. It's often said that if you're not making mistakes, you're not challenging yourself.

A click is a phoneme used in some languages, for example, there are clicks in Xhosa, a language of southern Africa. It is made by creating an area of low pressure (also called a partial vacuum) with the tongue, then breaking the seal by moving the tongue away from the area of lower pressure, creating a distinct clicking sound.

I have upvoted Pike's write-up above as a good succinct explanation of a click, so don't think I am slighting of it by offering a fuller explanation. Clicks are certainly the hardest and most complicated sounds in any language. Deep breath...

In phonetics, an ingressive and velaric sound. That is, it is made by closing the mouth at some point, and making an additional contact of the back of the tongue against the soft palate (the velum). The tongue is then pulled back to deform the mouth cavity and rarefy the air within it. When the outer stoppage is released, air rushes into the mouth where the pressure is lower. That's the theory.

The sounds so produced include the disapproving tut-tut or tsk-tsk noise used in English. The only languages that use these as speech sounds, however, are found in southern Africa in the Khoisan languages of the "Bushmen" and "Hottentots", and in neighbouring Bantu languages like Zulu and Xhosa that must have borrowed them fairly recently; and also two languages called Sandawe and Hadza in Tanzania that appear to be distantly related to Khoisan. Recently I read that an unrelated Cushitic language in Kenya, called Dahalo, also has clicks: this is new to me and is not mentioned in older sources. It seems the Dahalo people were originally Khoisan speakers who later adopted Cushitic from their neighbours but retained some of their old words.

Update, 18 March 2003. For latest scientific theory on the deep relationship between click languages and relevance to human evolution, see my postscript under Khoisan.

In Zulu and Xhosa the alveolar click is written as C, the lateral one as X, and the retroflex on as Q. Each of these can also be voiced (written e.g. GQ), nasalized (written e.g. NQ), or aspirated (written e.g. QH). I can't make any of those variations.

In the Khoisan languages they have traditionally been written with a variety of punctuation marks, e.g. the exclamation mark in !Kung and !Xam. The International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) used to have a number of its own special characters for them, but recently adopted the traditional punctuation signs instead. This is how the IPA describe them:

A bilabial click is a circle with a dot in it.
A dental click is a vertical line (pipe).
A (post)alveolar click is an exclamation mark.
A palatoalveolar click is a kind of not-equals sign, or a pipe with two crossbars.
An alveolar lateral click is two pipes.

In traditional use, the pipe is often written as a slash.

And no I don't know what, if the above is true, the difference between !K and !X is, because I frankly admit I'm now way out of my depth and if I try to pursue it I'll start singing in falsetto and plucking daisies out of my hair.

Remarkably, clicks also occurred outside Africa, in a ceremonial form of one of the Australian Aboriginal languages called Lardil. The ceremonial form Damin, now no longer fluently spoken by any surviving tribe members, was much simplified in grammatical and vocabulary aspects, but had an extremely unusual phonology: see http://www.invisiblelighthouse.com/langlab/damin.html

Slang for kilometre, or kilometres per hour.

Named for the noise an odometer or trip meter may make.

"We're doing about 90 clicks, and we're about 60 clicks from Barrie, so we should be there in about 40 minutes."

It seems that,whenever I'm practicing a new skill, I never progressively get better at it; it just clicks. This has happened in various science and calculus classes, and, more dramatically, in skills such as unicycling and juggling.

When teaching a friend of mine how to pass clubs, for instance, we were clumsy and unsuccessful at first, and then suddenly something clicked and we were able to keep the clubs suspended in the air for about a minute. After that, we were good at it. It didn't feel like we were making progress throughout the afternoon, but then BAM! There it was; we had built the skill and it was there to stay.

Things always "just click" like that for me.

Click (?), v. i. [imp. & p. p. Clicked (?); p. pr. & vb. n. Clicking.] [Prob. an onomatopoetic word: cf. OF. cliquier. See Clack, and cf. Clink, Clique.]

To make a slight, sharp noise (or a succession of such noises), as by gentle striking; to tick.

The varnished clock that clicked behind the door. Goldsmith.


© Webster 1913.

Click, v. t.


To more with the sound of a click.

She clicked back the bolt which held the window sash. Thackeray.


To cause to make a clicking noise, as by striking together, or against something.

[Jove] clicked all his marble thumbs. Ben Jonson.

When merry milkmaids click the latch. Tennyson.


© Webster 1913.

Click, n.


A slight sharp noise, such as is made by the cocking of a pistol.


A kind of articulation used by the natives of Southern Africa, consisting in a sudden withdrawal of the end or some other portion of the tongue from a part of the mouth with which it is in contact, whereby a sharp, clicking sound is produced. The sounds are four in number, and are called cerebral, palatal, dental, and lateral clicks or clucks, the latter being the noise ordinarily used in urging a horse forward.


© Webster 1913.

Click, v. t. [OE. kleken, clichen. Cf. Clutch.]

To snatch.

[Prov. Eng.]



© Webster 1913.

Click, n. [Cf. 4th Click, and OF. clique latch.]


A detent, pawl, or ratchet, as that which catches the cogs of a ratchet wheel to prevent backward motion. See Illust. of Ratched wheel.


The latch of a door.

[Prov. Eng.]


© Webster 1913.

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