Origin of peck

1300–50; Middle English pecke < Middle Dutch pecken; akin to pick1
Related formsun·pecked, adjective

Synonyms for peck

10a. pick at, poke at.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for pecking

Contemporary Examples of pecking

Historical Examples of pecking

  • The Crow is represented as standing on, and pecking at, the coils of Hydra.

    A Field Book of the Stars

    William Tyler Olcott

  • He shot them both and then killed the stinger that was pecking at his shins.

    Cat and Mouse

    Ralph Williams

  • Some hens and ducks had crept through the hedge and were pecking at the fallen apples.

    My Antonia

    Willa Cather

  • Soon he will feel them striking against his skull, pecking out his eyes.

    The Death Shot

    Mayne Reid

  • Then she had given him a pecking sort of kiss, and had wriggled out of his arms.

    The Brentons

    Anna Chapin Ray

British Dictionary definitions for pecking




a unit of dry measure equal to 8 quarts or one quarter of a bushel
a container used for measuring this quantity
a large quantity or number

Word Origin for peck

C13: from Anglo-Norman, of uncertain origin




(when intr, sometimes foll by at) to strike with the beak or with a pointed instrument
(tr sometimes foll by out) to dig (a hole) by pecking
(tr) (of birds) to pick up (corn, worms, etc) by pecking
(intr often foll by at) to nibble or pick (at one's food)
informal to kiss (a person) quickly and lightly
(intr foll by at) to nag


a quick light blow, esp from a bird's beak
a mark made by such a blow
informal a quick light kiss

Word Origin for peck

C14: of uncertain origin; compare pick 1, Middle Low German pekken to jab with the beak



Gregory. 1916–2003, US film actor; his films include Keys of the Kingdom (1944), The Gunfighter (1950), The Big Country (1958), To Kill a Mockingbird (1963), The Omen (1976), and Other People's Money (1991)
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 pecking

verbal noun from peck (v.), late 14c. As a behavior among hens, pecking order (1928) translates German hackliste (T.J. Schjelderuo-Ebbe, 1922); transferred sense of "human hierarchy based on rank or status" is from 1955.



c.1300, possibly a variant of picken (see pick (v.)), or in part from Middle Low German pekken "to peck with the beak." Related: Pecked; pecking.



late 13c., "dry measure of one-quarter bushel," of unknown origin; perhaps connected with Old French pek, picot (13c.), also of unknown origin (Barnhart says these were borrowed from English). Chiefly of oats for horses; original sense may be "allowance" rather than a fixed measure, thus perhaps from peck (v.).



"act of pecking," 1610s, from peck (v.). It is attested earlier in thieves' slang (1560s) with a sense of "food, grub."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper