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[pik-cher] /ˈpɪk tʃər/
a visual representation of a person, object, or scene, as a painting, drawing, photograph, etc.:
I carry a picture of my grandchild in my wallet.
any visible image, however produced:
pictures reflected in a pool of water.
a mental image:
a clear picture of how he had looked that day.
a particular image or reality as portrayed in an account or description; depiction; version.
a tableau, as in theatrical representation.
pictures, Informal: Older Use. movies.
a person, thing, group, or scene regarded as resembling a work of pictorial art in beauty, fineness of appearance, etc.:
She was a picture in her new blue dress.
the image or perfect likeness of someone else:
He is the picture of his father.
a visible or concrete embodiment of some quality or condition:
the picture of health.
a situation or set of circumstances:
the economic picture.
the image on a computer monitor, the viewing screen of a television set, or a motion-picture screen.
verb (used with object), pictured, picturing.
to represent in a picture or pictorially, as by painting or drawing.
to form a mental picture of; imagine:
He couldn't picture himself doing such a thing.
to depict in words; describe graphically:
He pictured Rome so vividly that you half-believed you were there.
to present or create as a setting; portray:
His book pictured the world of the future.
Origin of picture
late Middle English
1375-1425; late Middle English < Latin pictūra the act of painting, a painting, equivalent to pict(us) (past participle of pingere to paint) + -ūra -ure
Related forms
picturable, adjective
picturableness, noun
picturably, adverb
picturer, noun
mispicture, verb (used with object), mispictured, mispicturing.
self-pictured, adjective
unpictured, adjective
Can be confused
picture, pitcher.
13, 15. delineate, paint, draw, represent. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for picture
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • As a last rally, he tried to picture the difficulties he might encounter.

    The Spenders Harry Leon Wilson
  • Like everything else in that neighborhood, it was covered with picture writing.

    Ancient Man Hendrik Willem van Loon
  • But now the picture that drifted through his mind was still more horrible.

    Way of the Lawless Max Brand
  • How different a picture would the streets and public places then present!

    Sunday under Three Heads Charles Dickens
  • There was less diversity of opinion in regard to Elinor's picture.

British Dictionary definitions for picture


  1. a visual representation of something, such as a person or scene, produced on a surface, as in a photograph, painting, etc
  2. (as modifier): picture gallery, picture postcard, related adjective pictorial
a mental image or impression: a clear picture of events
a verbal description, esp one that is vivid
a situation considered as an observable scene: the political picture
a person or thing that bears a close resemblance to another: he was the picture of his father
a person, scene, etc, considered as typifying a particular state or quality: the picture of despair
a beautiful person or scene: you'll look a picture
a complete image on a television screen, comprising two interlaced fields
  1. a motion picture; film
  2. (as modifier): picture theatre
(mainly Brit & Austral) the pictures, a cinema or film show
another name for tableau vivant
(informal) get the picture, to understand a situation
in the picture, informed about a given situation
verb (transitive)
to visualize or imagine
to describe or depict, esp vividly
(often passive) to put in a picture or make a picture of: they were pictured sitting on the rocks
Word Origin
C15: from Latin pictūra painting, from pingere to paint
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
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Word Origin and History for picture

early 15c., "drawing, painting," from Latin pictura "painting," from pictus, past participle of pingere "to make pictures, to paint, to embroider," (see paint (v.)). Picture window is from 1938. Picture post-card first recorded 1899. Phrase every picture tells a story first attested 1900, in advertisements for an illustrated life of Christ. To be in (or out of) the picture in the figurative sense dates to 1900.

Expression a picture is worth a thousand words, attested from 1918, probably was from the publication trade (the notion that a picture was worth 1,000 words is in printers' publications by 1911). The phrase also was in use in the form worth a million words, the form used by American newspaper editor Arthur Brisbane (1864-1936) in an editorial much-read c.1916 titled "What is a Good Newspaper" in the "New York Evening Journal." In part it read, "After news and humor come good pictures. In this day of hurry we learn through the eye, and one picture may be worth a million words." It seems to have emerged into general use via the medium of advertising (which scaled down the number and also gave the expression its spurious origin story as "a Japanese proverb" or some such thing, by 1919). Earlier various acts or deeds (and in one case "the arrow") were said to be worth a thousand words.


late 15c. in the literal sense; 1738 in the mental sense, from picture (n.). Related: Pictured; picturing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for picture


Related Terms

draw a picture

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


In addition to the idiom beginning with
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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