[ pik-uhp ]
See synonyms for pickup on Thesaurus.com
  1. an improvement, as in health, business conditions, work, production, etc.

  2. Informal. pick-me-up.

  1. Informal. a casual, usually unintroduced acquaintance, often one made in hope of a sexual relationship.

  2. an instance of stopping for or taking aboard passengers or freight, as by a train, ship, taxicab, etc., especially an instance of taking freight or a shipment of goods onto a truck.

  3. the person, freight, or shipment so taken aboard: The cab driver had a pickup at the airport who wanted to be driven to the docks.

  4. Automotive.

    • capacity for rapid acceleration.

    • acceleration; increase in speed.

    • Also called pickup truck . a small truck with a low-sided open body, used for deliveries and light hauling.

  5. Baseball. the act of fielding a ball after it hits the ground.

  6. Also called cartridge. a small device attached to the end of a phonograph tone arm that contains a stylus and the mechanism that translates the movement of the stylus in a record groove into a changing electrical voltage.

  7. Radio.

    • the act of receiving sound waves in the transmitting set in order to change them into electrical waves.

    • a receiving or recording device.

    • the place from which a broadcast is being transmitted.

  8. Television.

    • the change of light energy into electrical energy in a television camera.

    • a telecast made directly from the scene of an action.

  9. a hitchhiker.

  10. Metalworking. (in the cold-drawing of metal) the adhesion of particles of the metal to the die or plug.

  1. composed of or employing whatever persons are available on a more or less impromptu basis: a pickup game of baseball; a pickup dance band.

  2. using whatever ingredients are handy or available: a Sunday night pickup supper.

Origin of pickup

First recorded in 1855–60; noun use of verb phrase pick up

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

How to use pickup in a sentence

  • Pickups wheeled in and out, transferring supplies to a cleared area outside.

    Student Body | Floyd L. Wallace
  • The screen turned featureless gray as the pickups stared blindly into some dimensionless noplace.

    Space Viking | Henry Beam Piper
  • She switched filters into place, then pressed the button that rotated new pickups into position.

    Deathworld | Harry Harrison
  • They threw spotlights on it, for the TV pickups, and thrust microphones at him.

    Desire No More | Algirdas Jonas Budrys
  • Rick knew from many previous pickups the altitude at which to fly.

    The Golden Skull | John Blaine

British Dictionary definitions for pick-up


  1. Also called: pick-up arm, tone arm the light balanced arm of a record player that carries the wires from the cartridge to the preamplifier

  2. an electromagnetic transducer that converts the vibrations of the steel strings of an electric guitar or other amplified instrument into electric signals

  1. another name for cartridge (def. 3)

  2. Also called: pick-up truck a small truck with an open body and low sides, used for light deliveries

  3. informal, mainly US an ability to accelerate rapidly: this car has good pick-up

  4. informal a casual acquaintance, usually one made with sexual intentions

  5. informal

    • a stop to collect passengers, goods, etc

    • the people or things collected

  6. slang a free ride in a motor vehicle

  7. informal an improvement

  8. slang a pick-me-up

  1. US and Canadian organized, arranged, or assembled hastily and without planning: a pick-up band; pick-up games

verbpick up (adverb)
  1. (tr) to gather up in the hand or hands

  2. (tr) to acquire, obtain, or purchase casually, incidentally, etc

  1. (tr) to catch (a disease): she picked up a bad cold during the weekend

  2. (intr) to improve in health, condition, activity, etc: the market began to pick up

  3. (reflexive) to raise (oneself) after a fall or setback

  4. (tr) to notice or sense: she picked up a change in his attitude

  5. to resume where one left off; return to: we'll pick up after lunch; they picked up the discussion

  6. (tr) to learn gradually or as one goes along

  7. (tr) to take responsibility for paying (a bill): he picked up the bill for dinner

  8. (tr) informal to reprimand: he picked her up on her table manners

  9. (tr) to collect or give a lift to (passengers, hitchhikers, goods, etc)

  10. (tr) informal to become acquainted with, esp with a view to having sexual relations

  11. (tr) informal to arrest

  12. to increase (speed): the cars picked up down the straight

  13. (tr) to receive (electrical signals, a radio signal, sounds, etc), as for transmission or amplification

  14. pick up the pieces to restore a situation to normality after a crisis or collapse

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 pickup


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

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