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.
    pick apart, to criticize severely or in great detail: They picked her apart the moment she left the room.
    pick it up, Informal. to move, work, etc., at a faster rate.
    pick one's way/steps, to walk with care and deliberation: She picked her way across the muddy field.
    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

4. rob, pilfer. 12. reap, collect. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for pick and choose

prefer, elect, name, take, cull, slot, tap, separate, winnow, mark, tag, finger, tab, hand-pick

British Dictionary definitions for pick and choose




to choose (something) deliberately or carefully, from or as if from a group or number; select
to pluck or gather (fruit, berries, or crops) from (a tree, bush, field, etc)to pick hops; to pick a whole bush
(tr) to clean or prepare (fruit, poultry, etc) by removing the indigestible parts
(tr) to remove loose particles from (the teeth, the nose, etc)
(esp of birds) to nibble or gather (corn, etc)
(when intr, foll by at) to nibble (at) fussily or without appetite
to separate (strands, fibres, etc), as in weaving
(tr) to provoke (an argument, fight, etc) deliberately
(tr) to steal (money or valuables) from (a person's pocket)
(tr) to open (a lock) with an instrument other than a key
to pluck the strings of (a guitar, banjo, etc)
(tr) to make (one's way) carefully on footthey picked their way through the rubble
pick and choose to select fastidiously, fussily, etc
pick someone's brains to obtain information or ideas from someone


freedom or right of selection (esp in the phrase take one's pick)
a person, thing, etc, that is chosen first or preferredthe pick of the bunch
the act of picking
the amount of a crop picked at one period or from one area
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




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
any of various tools used for picking, such as an ice pick or toothpick
a plectrum


(tr) to pierce, dig, or break up (a hard surface) with a pick
(tr) to form (a hole) in this way

Word Origin for pick

C14: perhaps variant of pike ²




(tr) to cast (a shuttle)


one casting of a shuttle
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 and choose



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 and choose

pick and choose

Select with great care, as in John and Kate loved to go to the pastry shop, especially if they had time to pick and choose. Despite its redundancy (pick and choose are synonyms), this phrase has survived since the 1400s.


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.