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verb (used with object)
  1. to pull off or out from the place of growth, as fruit, flowers, feathers, etc.: to pluck feathers from a chicken.
  2. to give a pull at; grasp: to pluck someone's sleeve.
  3. to pull with sudden force or with a jerk.
  4. to pull or move by force (often followed by away, off, or out).
  5. to remove the feathers, hair, etc., from by pulling: to pluck a chicken.
  6. Slang. to rob, plunder, or fleece.
  7. to sound (the strings of a musical instrument) by pulling at them with the fingers or a plectrum.
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verb (used without object)
  1. to pull or tug sharply (often followed by at).
  2. to snatch (often followed by at).
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  1. act of plucking; a tug.
  2. the heart, liver, and lungs, especially of an animal used for food.
  3. courage or resolution in the face of difficulties.
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Verb Phrases
  1. pluck up,
    1. to eradicate; uproot.
    2. to summon up one's courage; rouse one's spirits: He always plucked up at the approach of danger. She was a stranger in the town, but, plucking up her courage, she soon made friends.
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Origin of pluck

before 1000; Middle English plukken (v.), Old English pluccian, cognate with Middle Low German plucken; akin to Dutch plukken, German pflücken
Related formspluck·er, nounhalf-plucked, adjectiveun·plucked, adjectivewell-plucked, adjective

Synonyms for pluck

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

Related Words for pluck

guts, spunk, moxie, grit, bravery, cull, clutch, snatch, strum, harvest, yank, heart, boldness, nerve, backbone, spirit, determination, intrepidity, resolution, mettle

Examples from the Web for pluck

Contemporary Examples of pluck

Historical Examples of pluck

  • Cut off my arm and pluck out my eye, so that the other may be better.

  • Rima was not there to pluck the rage from my heart and save his evil life.

    Green Mansions

    W. H. Hudson

  • Then you have to do the best you can, and prove the pluck that is in you.

    The Forest

    Stewart Edward White

  • Now I must be permitted to celebrate by a little the pluck of Dick.

    The Forest

    Stewart Edward White

  • Why should you aspire to pluck the flower which has grown up amongst us?

    Micah Clarke

    Arthur Conan Doyle

British Dictionary definitions for pluck


  1. (tr) to pull off (feathers, fruit, etc) from (a fowl, tree, etc)
  2. (when intr, foll by at) to pull or tug
  3. (tr; foll by off, away, etc) archaic to pull (something) forcibly or violently (from something or someone)
  4. (tr) to sound (the strings) of (a musical instrument) with the fingers, a plectrum, etc
  5. (tr) another word for strip 1 (def. 7)
  6. (tr) slang to fleece or swindle
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  1. courage, usually in the face of difficulties or hardship
  2. a sudden pull or tug
  3. the heart, liver, and lungs, esp of an animal used for food
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Derived Formsplucker, noun

Word Origin for pluck

Old English pluccian, plyccan; related to German pflücken
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 pluck


late Old English ploccian, pluccian "pull off, cull," from West Germanic *plokken (cf. Middle Low German plucken, Middle Dutch plocken, Dutch plukken, Flemish plokken, German pflücken), perhaps from Vulgar Latin *piluccare (cf. Old French peluchier, late 12c.; Italian piluccare), a frequentative, ultimately from Latin pilare "pull out hair," from pilus "hair" (see pile (n.3)). But despite the similarities, OED finds difficulties with this and cites gaps in historical evidence. Related: Plucked; plucking.

To pluck a rose, an expression said to be used by women for going to the necessary house, which in the country usually stands in the garden. [F. Grose, "Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue," 1785]

This euphemistic use is attested from 1610s. To pluck up "summon up" is from c.1300.

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c.1400, "act of plucking," from pluck (v.). Meaning "courage, boldness" (1785), originally in pugilism slang, is a figurative use from earlier meaning "heart, viscera" (1610s) as that which is "plucked" from slaughtered livestock. Perhaps influenced by figurative use of the verb in pluck up (one's courage, etc.), attested from c.1300.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper