Nearby words

  1. piceous,
  2. pich,
  3. pichiciago,
  4. pichiciego,
  5. picinni,
  6. pick 'n' mix,
  7. pick a bone with,
  8. pick a quarrel,
  9. pick and choose,
  10. pick and mix


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. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

British Dictionary definitions for pick up




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 up
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with pick up

pick up


Lift, take up by hand, as in Please pick up that book from the floor. [Early 1300s]


Collect or gather, as in First they had to pick up the pieces of broken glass.


Tidy, put in order, as in Let's pick up the bedroom, or I'm always picking up after Pat. [Mid-1800s]


Take on passengers or freight, as in The bus picks up commuters at three stops.


Acquire casually, get without great effort or by accident. For example, I picked up a nice coat at the sale, or She had no trouble picking up French. This usage is even extended to contracting diseases, as in I think I picked up the baby's cold. [Early 1500s]


Claim, as in He picked up his laundry every Friday.


Buy, as in Please pick up some wine at the store on your way home.


pick up the bill or check or tab. Accept a charge in order to pay it, as in They always wait for us to pick up the tab. [Colloquial; mid-1900s]


Increase speed or rate, as in The plane picked up speed, or The conductor told the strings to pick up the tempo.


Gain, as in They picked up five yards on that pass play.


Take into custody, apprehend, as in The police picked him up for burglary. [Colloquial; second half of 1800s]


Make a casual acquaintance with, especially in anticipation of sexual relations, as in A stranger tried to pick her up at the bus station. [Slang; late 1800s]


Come upon, find, detect, as in The dog picked up the scent, or They picked up two submarines on sonar, or I can't pick up that station on the car radio.


Resume, as in Let's pick up the conversation after lunch.


Improve or cause to improve in condition or activity, as in Sales picked up last fall, or He picked up quickly after he got home from the hospital, or A cup of coffee will pick you up. [1700s]


Gather one's belongings, as in She just picked up and left him.


pick oneself up. Recover from a fall or other mishap, as in Jim picked himself up and stood there waiting. [Mid-1800s] Also see the subsequent entries beginning with pick up.


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.