[ pik ]
See synonyms for: pickpickedpicking on Thesaurus.com

verb (used with object)
  1. to choose or select from among a group: to pick a contestant from the audience.

  2. to seek and find occasion for; provoke: to pick a fight.

  1. to attempt to find; seek out: to pick flaws in an argument.

  2. to steal the contents of: Her pocket was picked yesterday.

  3. to open (a lock) with a device other than the key, as a sharp instrument or wire, especially for the purpose of burglary.

  4. to pierce, indent, dig into, or break up (something) with a pointed instrument: to pick rock; to pick ore.

  5. to form (a hole) by such action: to pick a hole in asphalt.

  6. to use a pointed instrument, the fingers, the teeth, the beak, etc., on (a thing), in order to remove or loosen something, as a small part or adhering matter: to pick one's teeth.

  7. to prepare for use by removing a covering piece by piece, as feathers, hulls, or other parts: to pick a fowl.

  8. to detach or remove piece by piece with the fingers: She picked the meat from the bones.

  9. to pluck or gather one by one: to pick flowers.

  10. (of birds or other animals) to take up (small bits of food) with the bill or teeth.

  11. to eat daintily or in small morsels.

  12. to separate, pull apart, or pull to pieces: to pick fibers.

  13. Music.

    • to pluck (the strings of an instrument).

    • to play (a stringed instrument) by plucking with the fingers.

verb (used without object)
  1. to strike with or use a pick or other pointed instrument on something.

  2. (of birds or other animals) to take up small bits of food with the bill or teeth: The hens were busily picking about in their coop.

  1. to select carefully or fastidiously.

  2. to pilfer; steal.

  3. to pluck or gather fruit, flowers, etc.

  4. Basketball. to execute a pick.

  1. the act of choosing or selecting; choice; selection: to take one's pick.

  2. a person or thing that is selected: He is our pick for president.

  1. the choicest or most desirable part, example, or examples: This horse is the pick of the stable.

  2. the right of selection: He gave me my pick of the litter.

  3. the quantity of a crop picked, as from trees, bushes, etc., at a particular time: The pick was poor this season.

  4. Printing.

    • a speck of dirt, hardened ink, or extra metal on set type or a plate.

    • a small area removed from the surface of a coated paper by ink that adheres to the form.

  5. a stroke with something pointed: The rock shattered at the first pick of the ax.

  6. Basketball. an offensive maneuver in which a player moves into a position between a defender and a teammate with the ball so as to prevent the defender from interfering with the shot.: Compare pick-and-roll.

Verb Phrases
  1. pick at,

    • to find fault with unnecessarily or persistently; nag.

    • to eat sparingly or daintily: As he was ill, he only picked at his food.

    • to grasp at; touch; handle: The baby loved to pick at her mother's glasses.

  2. pick off,

    • to remove by pulling or plucking off.

    • to single out and shoot: The hunter picked off a duck rising from the marsh.

    • Baseball. to put out (a base runner) in a pick-off play.

  1. pick on,

    • Informal. to criticize or blame; tease; harass.

    • to single out; choose: The professor always picks on me to translate long passages.

  2. pick out,

    • to choose; designate: to pick out one's successor.

    • to distinguish from that which surrounds or accompanies; recognize: to pick out a well-known face in a crowd.

    • to discern (sense or meaning); discriminate.

    • to play (a melody) by ear; work out note by note.

    • to extract by picking.

  3. pick over, to examine (an assortment of items) in order to make a selection: Eager shoppers were picking over the shirts on the bargain tables.

  4. pick up,

    • to lift or take up: to pick up a stone.

    • to collect, especially in an orderly manner: Pick up the tools when you're finished.

    • to recover (one's courage, health, etc.); regain.

    • to gain by occasional opportunity; obtain casually: to pick up a livelihood.

    • to learn, as by experience: I've picked up a few Japanese phrases.

    • to claim: to pick up one's bags at an airport.

    • to take (a person or thing) into a car or ship, etc., or along with one.

    • to bring into range of reception, observation, etc.: to pick up Rome on one's radio.

    • to accelerate; gain (speed).

    • to put in good order; tidy: to pick up a room.

    • to make progress; improve: Business is beginning to pick up.

    • to catch or contract, as a disease.

    • Informal. to become acquainted with informally or casually, often in hope of a sexual relationship: Let's pick up some dates tonight.

    • to resume or continue after being left off: Let's pick up the discussion in our next meeting.

    • Informal. to take into custody; arrest: They picked him up for vagrancy.

    • Informal. to obtain; find; purchase: She picked up some nice shoes on sale.

    • Slang. to steal: to pick up jewels and silver.

    • to accept, as in order to pay: to pick up the check.

  5. pick up on, Informal.

    • become aware or cognizant of; be perceptive about; notice: to pick up on the hostess's hostility.

    • to pay special attention to; keep an eye on: to pick up on a troubled student.

Idioms about pick

  1. pick and choose, to be very careful or particular in choosing: With such a limited supply of fresh fruit, you won't be able to pick and choose.

  2. pick apart, to criticize severely or in great detail: They picked her apart the moment she left the room.

  1. pick it up, Informal. to move, work, etc., at a faster rate.

  2. pick one's way / steps, to walk with care and deliberation: She picked her way across the muddy field.

  3. pick someone's brains. brain (def. 12).

Origin of pick

First recorded in 1250–1300; partly from Middle English verb piken, pyken, pikken, pekken “to work with a pick; work or hit with the mouth or beak,” Old English nouns píc “point, pointed tool, pike” and pícung “stigmata,” from the unrecorded verb pícian “to prick”; cognate with Dutch pikken, German picken, Old Norse pikka “to prick, pick”; partly from Old French piquier “to prick, pluck”; see origin at peck1, pike5, pique1

synonym study For pick

1. See choose.

Other words for pick

Other words from pick

  • pick·a·ble, adjective
  • un·pick·a·ble, adjective

Words Nearby pick

Other definitions for pick (2 of 3)

[ pik ]

  1. a heavy tool consisting of an iron or steel head, usually curved, tapering to a point at one or both ends, mounted on a wooden handle, and used for loosening and breaking up soil, rock, etc.; pickax.

  2. a hammerlike tool for the rough dressing of stone, having two sharp, pyramidal faces.

  1. any pointed or other tool or instrument for picking (often used in combination): a toothpick;an ice pick.

  2. Music. plectrum.

  3. Slang. a large pocket comb having long, widely spaced teeth.

Origin of pick

First recorded in 1300–50; Middle English pikk(e); perhaps variant of pike5

Other definitions for pick (3 of 3)

[ pik ]

verb (used with object)
  1. to cast (a shuttle).

  1. (in a loom) one passage of the shuttle.

Origin of pick

First recorded in 1790–95; variant of pitch1

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use pick in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for pick (1 of 3)


/ (pɪk) /

  1. to choose (something) deliberately or carefully, from or as if from a group or number; select

  2. to pluck or gather (fruit, berries, or crops) from (a tree, bush, field, etc): to pick hops; to pick a whole bush

  1. (tr) to clean or prepare (fruit, poultry, etc) by removing the indigestible parts

  2. (tr) to remove loose particles from (the teeth, the nose, etc)

  3. (esp of birds) to nibble or gather (corn, etc)

  4. (when intr, foll by at) to nibble (at) fussily or without appetite

  5. to separate (strands, fibres, etc), as in weaving

  6. (tr) to provoke (an argument, fight, etc) deliberately

  7. (tr) to steal (money or valuables) from (a person's pocket)

  8. (tr) to open (a lock) with an instrument other than a key

  9. to pluck the strings of (a guitar, banjo, etc)

  10. (tr) to make (one's way) carefully on foot: they picked their way through the rubble

  11. pick and choose to select fastidiously, fussily, etc

  12. pick someone's brains to obtain information or ideas from someone

  1. freedom or right of selection (esp in the phrase take one's pick)

  2. a person, thing, etc, that is chosen first or preferred: the pick of the bunch

  1. the act of picking

  2. the amount of a crop picked at one period or from one area

  3. printing a speck of dirt or paper fibre or a blob of ink on the surface of set type or a printing plate

Origin of pick

C15: from earlier piken to pick, influenced by French piquer to pierce; compare Middle Low German picken, Dutch pikken

Derived forms of pick

  • pickable, adjective

British Dictionary definitions for pick (2 of 3)


/ (pɪk) /

  1. a tool with a handle carrying a long steel head curved and tapering to a point at one or both ends, used for loosening soil, breaking rocks, etc

  2. any of various tools used for picking, such as an ice pick or toothpick

  1. a plectrum

  1. (tr) to pierce, dig, or break up (a hard surface) with a pick

  2. (tr) to form (a hole) in this way

Origin of pick

C14: perhaps variant of pike ²

British Dictionary definitions for pick (3 of 3)


/ (in weaving pɪk) /

  1. (tr) to cast (a shuttle)

  1. one casting of a shuttle

  2. a weft or filling thread

Origin of pick

C14: variant of pitch 1

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

Other Idioms and Phrases with pick


In addition to the idioms beginning with pick

  • pick a bone with
  • pick and choose
  • pick apart
  • pick a quarrel
  • pick at
  • picked over
  • pick holes in
  • pick off
  • pick of the litter
  • pick on
  • pick one's way
  • pick out
  • pick over
  • pick someone's brain
  • pick to pieces
  • pick up
  • pick up on
  • pick up the pieces

also see:

  • bone to pick
  • slim pickings

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.