Try Our Apps


Famous Last Words


[pik-uh l] /ˈpɪk əl/
a cucumber that has been preserved in brine, vinegar, or the like.
Often, pickles. any other vegetable, as cauliflower, celery, etc., preserved in vinegar and eaten as a relish.
something preserved in a brine or marinade.
a liquid usually prepared with salt or vinegar for preserving or flavoring fish, meat, vegetables, etc.; brine or marinade.
Metallurgy. an acid or other chemical solution in which metal objects are dipped to remove oxide scale or other adhering substances.
Informal. a troublesome or awkward situation; predicament:
I was in a pickle after the check bounced.
Informal. a sour, disagreeable person.
verb (used with object), pickled, pickling.
to preserve or steep in brine or other liquid.
to treat with a chemical solution, as for the purpose of cleaning.
to give a pale, streaked finish to (wood) by applying and partly removing paint or by bleaching, as to give an appearance of age.
Slang. to store; prepare for long-range storage:
Let's pickle these old cars for a few years.
Origin of pickle1
late Middle English
1400-50; late Middle English pikkyll, pekille < Middle Dutch, Middle Low German pekel (> German Pökel) brine, pickle
6. plight, quandary; fix, bind, scrape, jam. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
Cite This Source
Examples from the Web for pickling
Historical Examples
  • The principal means of preserving them before then was by pickling.

  • We eat them in quantities; pickling, preserving, and drying them sometimes.

    Brighter Britain! (Volume 1 of 2) William Delisle Hay
  • This one gave way to rage and temper when things were pickling and there was no room for such luxuries in a fracas.

    Frigid Fracas Dallas McCord Reynolds
  • Vinegar for pickling should be good, but not of the sharpest kind.

  • For pickling, the seed should be sown very thickly, then slightly covered with fine soil, and afterwards rolled.

  • Vinegar for pickling should be spiced and set to sun from spring to autumn.

    Housekeeping in Old Virginia Marion Cabell Tyree
  • The seed should be sown early in March for the main crop and for salad and pickling Onions, and in August for summer use.

  • Meat for pickling must be very fresh, and of excellent quality.

  • But the large quantity of vinegar bought every week shows the activity of the pickling department.

    London Walter Besant
  • Of these, at least twenty may be kept in the fresh state, without canning or pickling.

British Dictionary definitions for pickling


(often pl) vegetables, such as cauliflowers, onions, etc, preserved in vinegar, brine, etc
any food preserved in this way
a liquid or marinade, such as spiced vinegar, for preserving vegetables, meat, fish, etc
(mainly US & Canadian) a cucumber that has been preserved and flavoured in a pickling solution, such as brine or vinegar
(informal) an awkward or difficult situation: to be in a pickle
(Brit, informal) a mischievous child
verb (transitive)
to preserve in a pickling liquid
to immerse (a metallic object) in a liquid, such as an acid, to remove surface scale
Derived Forms
pickler, noun
Word Origin
C14: perhaps from Middle Dutch pekel; related to German Pökel brine
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
Cite This Source
Word Origin and History for pickling



c.1400, probably from Middle Dutch pekel "pickle, brine," or related words in Low German and East Frisian (cf. Dutch pekel, East Frisian päkel, German pökel), of uncertain origin or original meaning. Klein suggests the name of a medieval Dutch fisherman who developed the process. Originally a sauce served with meat or fowl; meaning "cucumber preserved in pickle" first recorded 1707, via use of the word for the salty liquid in which meat, etc. was preserved (c.1500). Figurative sense of "sorry plight" first recorded 1560s, from the time when the word still meant a sauce served on meat about to be eaten. Meaning "troublesome boy" is from 1788, perhaps from the notion of being "imbued" with roguery.


1550s, from pickle (n.). Related: Pickled; pickling.



1550s, from pickle (n.). Related: Pickled; pickling.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
Cite This Source
Slang definitions & phrases for pickling



  1. (also picklement) A parlous situation; predicament; dilemma: I was in a sad pickle when I lost my job (1609+)
  2. A torpedo (WWII Navy)
  3. A bullet: He fired six pickles at the knob (1940s+)

verb phrase

To hit the ball very hard (1908+ Baseball)


To ruin; wreck: This will promptly pickle her college chances (1950s+)

[first noun sense fr 1500s British slang in a pickle and may refer to the situation of a mouse fallen into a pickling vat; picklement is a handy echo of predicament]

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
Cite This Source
Idioms and Phrases with pickling


The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Cite This Source

Word of the Day

Difficulty index for pickle

Some English speakers likely know this word

Word Value for pickling

Scrabble Words With Friends

Nearby words for pickling