See more synonyms for pick 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.
  3. to attempt to find; seek out: to pick flaws in an argument.
  4. to steal the contents of: Her pocket was picked yesterday.
  5. to open (a lock) with a device other than the key, as a sharp instrument or wire, especially for the purpose of burglary.
  6. to pierce, indent, dig into, or break up (something) with a pointed instrument: to pick rock; to pick ore.
  7. to form (a hole) by such action: to pick a hole in asphalt.
  8. 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.
  9. to prepare for use by removing a covering piece by piece, as feathers, hulls, or other parts: to pick a fowl.
  10. to detach or remove piece by piece with the fingers: She picked the meat from the bones.
  11. to pluck or gather one by one: to pick flowers.
  12. (of birds or other animals) to take up (small bits of food) with the bill or teeth.
  13. to eat daintily or in small morsels.
  14. to separate, pull apart, or pull to pieces: to pick fibers.
  15. Music.
    1. to pluck (the strings of an instrument).
    2. 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.
  3. to select carefully or fastidiously.
  4. to pilfer; steal.
  5. to pluck or gather fruit, flowers, etc.
  6. 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.
  3. the choicest or most desirable part, example, or examples: This horse is the pick of the stable.
  4. the right of selection: He gave me my pick of the litter.
  5. the quantity of a crop picked, as from trees, bushes, etc., at a particular time: The pick was poor this season.
  6. Printing.
    1. a speck of dirt, hardened ink, or extra metal on set type or a plate.
    2. a small area removed from the surface of a coated paper by ink that adheres to the form.
  7. a stroke with something pointed: The rock shattered at the first pick of the ax.
  8. 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,
    1. to find fault with unnecessarily or persistently; nag.
    2. to eat sparingly or daintily: As he was ill, he only picked at his food.
    3. to grasp at; touch; handle: The baby loved to pick at her mother's glasses.
  2. pick off,
    1. to remove by pulling or plucking off.
    2. to single out and shoot: The hunter picked off a duck rising from the marsh.
    3. Baseball.to put out (a base runner) in a pick-off play.
  3. pick on,
    1. Informal.to criticize or blame; tease; harass.
    2. to single out; choose: The professor always picks on me to translate long passages.
  4. pick out,
    1. to choose; designate: to pick out one's successor.
    2. to distinguish from that which surrounds or accompanies; recognize: to pick out a well-known face in a crowd.
    3. to discern (sense or meaning); discriminate.
    4. to play (a melody) by ear; work out note by note.
    5. to extract by picking.
  5. 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.
  6. pick up,
    1. to lift or take up: to pick up a stone.
    2. to collect, especially in an orderly manner: Pick up the tools when you're finished.
    3. to recover (one's courage, health, etc.); regain.
    4. to gain by occasional opportunity; obtain casually: to pick up a livelihood.
    5. to learn, as by experience: I've picked up a few Japanese phrases.
    6. to claim: to pick up one's bags at an airport.
    7. to take (a person or thing) into a car or ship, etc., or along with one.
    8. to bring into range of reception, observation, etc.: to pick up Rome on one's radio.
    9. to accelerate; gain (speed).
    10. to put in good order; tidy: to pick up a room.
    11. to make progress; improve: Business is beginning to pick up.
    12. to catch or contract, as a disease.
    13. Informal.to become acquainted with informally or casually, often in hope of a sexual relationship: Let's pick up some dates tonight.
    14. to resume or continue after being left off: Let's pick up the discussion in our next meeting.
    15. Informal.to take into custody; arrest: They picked him up for vagrancy.
    16. Informal.to obtain; find; purchase: She picked up some nice shoes on sale.
    17. Slang.to steal: to pick up jewels and silver.
    18. to accept, as in order to pay: to pick up the check.
  7. pick up on, Informal.
    1. become aware or cognizant of; be perceptive about; notice: to pick up on the hostess's hostility.
    2. to pay special attention to; keep an eye on: to pick up on a troubled student.
  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.
  3. pick it up, Informal. to move, work, etc., at a faster rate.
  4. pick one's way/steps, to walk with care and deliberation: She picked her way across the muddy field.
  5. pick someone's brains. brain(def 12).

Origin of pick

1250–1300; v. Middle English pyken, pikken, pekken, cognate with Dutch pikken, German picken, Old Norse pikka to pick; akin to peck2, pike5; (noun) derivative of the v.
Related formspick·a·ble, adjectiveun·pick·a·ble, adjective

Synonym study

1. See choose.

Synonyms for pick

See more synonyms for on Thesaurus.com
4. rob, pilfer. 12. reap, collect.


  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.
  3. any pointed or other tool or instrument for picking (often used in combination): a toothpick; an ice pick.
  4. Music. plectrum.
  5. Slang. a large pocket comb having long, widely spaced teeth.

Origin of pick

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


verb (used with object)
  1. to cast (a shuttle).
  1. (in a loom) one passage of the shuttle.
  2. filling(def 5).

Origin of pick

variant of pitch1
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for pick

Contemporary Examples of pick

Historical Examples of pick

  • She won't think much of a boy that has to pick berries for a living.

    Brave and Bold

    Horatio Alger

  • You pick one that's full-chested, that's got a fairish-sized nose, and that likes cats.

    The Spenders

    Harry Leon Wilson

  • If I am discharged I think I can manage to pick up a living somehow.

    Brave and Bold

    Horatio Alger

  • Do you expect me to pick up everything you've thrown in the mud and feel grateful?


    William J. Locke

  • Every now and then she swerved aside to pick the red campion.

British Dictionary definitions for pick


  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
  3. (tr) to clean or prepare (fruit, poultry, etc) by removing the indigestible parts
  4. (tr) to remove loose particles from (the teeth, the nose, etc)
  5. (esp of birds) to nibble or gather (corn, etc)
  6. (when intr, foll by at) to nibble (at) fussily or without appetite
  7. to separate (strands, fibres, etc), as in weaving
  8. (tr) to provoke (an argument, fight, etc) deliberately
  9. (tr) to steal (money or valuables) from (a person's pocket)
  10. (tr) to open (a lock) with an instrument other than a key
  11. to pluck the strings of (a guitar, banjo, etc)
  12. (tr) to make (one's way) carefully on footthey picked their way through the rubble
  13. pick and choose to select fastidiously, fussily, etc
  14. 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 preferredthe pick of the bunch
  3. the act of picking
  4. the amount of a crop picked at one period or from one area
  5. printing a speck of dirt or paper fibre or a blob of ink on the surface of set type or a printing plate
Derived Formspickable, adjective

Word Origin for pick

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


  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
  3. 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

Word Origin for pick

C14: perhaps variant of pike ²


  1. (tr) to cast (a shuttle)
  1. one casting of a shuttle
  2. a weft or filling thread

Word Origin for 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

Word Origin and History for pick

early 13c., picken "to peck;" c.1300, piken "to work with a pick," probably representing a fusion of Old English *pician "to prick," (implied by picung "a piercing, pricking," an 8c. gloss on Latin stigmata) with Old Norse pikka "to prick, peck," from a common Germanic root (cf. Middle Dutch picken, German picken "to pick, peck"), perhaps imitative. Influence from Middle French piquer "to prick, sting" (see pike (n.2)) also is possible, but that French word generally is not considered a source of the English word. Related: Picked; picking.

Meaning "to eat with small bites" is from 1580s. The meaning "to choose, select, pick out" emerged late 14c., from earlier meaning "to pluck with the fingers" (early 14c.). Sense of "to rob, plunder" (c.1300) weakened to a milder sense of "steal petty things" by late 14c. Of forcing locks with a pointed tool, by 1540s. Meaning "to pluck (a banjo)" is recorded from 1860. To pick a quarrel, etc. is from mid-15c.; to pick at "find fault with" is from 1670s. Pick on "single out for adverse attention" is from late 14c.; pick off "shoot one by one" is recorded from 1810; baseball sense of "to put out a runner on base" is from 1939. Also cf. pick up. To pick and choose "select carefully" is from 1660s (choose and pick is attested from c.1400).


c.1200, "pointed tool for breaking up rock or ground," variant of pike (n.4). Meaning "sharp tool" is from mid-14c.


mid-15c., "a blow with a pointed instrument," from pick (v.). Meaning "plectrum for a guitar, lute, etc." is from 1895; as a type of basketball block, from 1951; meaning "choicest part or example" is first recorded 1760.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

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.