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noun Printing.
  1. a 12-point type of a size between small pica and English.
  2. the depth of this type size as a unit of linear measurement for type, pages containing type, etc.; one sixth of an inch.
  3. a 12-point type, widely used for typewriters, having 10 characters to the inch.
Compare elite(def 4).

Origin of pica1

1580–90; apparently < Medieval Latin pīca pie4, on the model of brevier and canon1, other type sizes


noun Pathology.
  1. an abnormal appetite or craving for substances that are not fit to eat, as chalk or clay, common in malnutrition, pregnancy, etc.

Origin of pica2

1555–65; < New Latin, special use of Latin pīca jay, magpie, with reference to its omnivorous feeding
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for pica

Historical Examples

  • It was based on the pica size most extensively in use in this country.

    The Building of a Book


  • Replaced in California west of the Sierras by Pica nuttalli.

  • Pica gages are scales marked off in units of 12-point (and half, or 6-point).


    A. A. Stewart

  • These are made in lengths of one yard and in sizes of 6-point (nonpareil), 12-point (pica), and 18-point.


    A. A. Stewart

  • The mother, whose name was Pica, may have been of Provenal or French blood.

British Dictionary definitions for pica


  1. Also called: em, pica em a printer's unit of measurement, equal to 12 points or 0.166 ins
  2. (formerly) a size of printer's type equal to 12 point
  3. a typewriter type size having 10 characters to the inch

Word Origin

C15: from Anglo-Latin pīca list of ecclesiastical regulations, apparently from Latin pīca magpie, with reference to its habit of making collections of miscellaneous items; the connection between the original sense (ecclesiastical list) and the typography meanings is obscure


  1. pathol an abnormal craving to ingest substances such as clay, dirt, or hair, sometimes occurring during pregnancy, in persons with chlorosis, etc

Word Origin

C16: from medical Latin, from Latin: magpie, being an allusion to its omnivorous feeding habits
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for pica


"size of type of about six lines to the inch" (12 point), 1580s, probably from pica, name of a book of rules in Church of England for determining holy days (late 15c. in Anglo-Latin), probably from Latin pica "magpie" (see pie (n.2)); the book so called perhaps from the color and the "pied" look of the old type on close-printed pages. The type size was that generally used to print ordinals.


"pathological craving for substance unfit for food" (such as chalk), 1560s, from Medieval Latin pica "magpie" (see pie (n.2)), probably translating Greek kissa, kitta "magpie, jay," also "false appetite." The connecting notion may be the birds' indiscriminate feeding.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

pica in Medicine


(ăb-ăpĭ-kəl, -āpĭ-)
  1. Opposite to or directed away from the apex.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.