pick 1 (pĭk)
v. picked, pick·ing, picks
1. To select from a group: The best swimmer was picked.
a. To gather in; harvest: They were picking cotton.
b. To gather the harvest from: picked the field in one day.
a. To remove the outer covering of; pluck: pick a chicken clean of feathers.
b. To tear off bit by bit: pick meat from the bones.
4. To remove extraneous matter from (the teeth, for example).
5. To poke and pull at (something) with the fingers.
6. To break up, separate, or detach by means of a sharp pointed instrument.
7. To pierce or make (a hole) with a sharp pointed instrument.
8. To take up (food) with the beak; peck: The parrot picked its seed.
9. To steal the contents of: My pocket was picked.
10. To open (a lock) without the use of a key.
11. To provoke: pick a fight.
a. To pluck (an instrument's strings).
b. To play (an instrument) by plucking its strings.
c. To play (a tune) in this manner: picked a melody out on the guitar.
1. To decide with care or forethought.
2. To work with a pick.
3. To find fault or make petty criticisms; carp: He's always picking about something.
4. To be harvested or gathered: The ripe apples picked easily.
1. The act of picking, especially with a sharp pointed instrument.
2. The act of selecting or choosing; choice: got first pick of the desserts.
3. Something selected as the most desirable; the best or choicest part: the pick of the crop.
4. The amount or quantity of a crop that is picked by hand.
5. Sports An interception of a pass.
6. Basketball A screen.
To refute or find flaws in by close examination: The lawyer picked the testimony apart.
1. To pluck or pull at, especially with the fingers.
2. To eat sparingly or without appetite: The child just picked at the food.
3. Informal To nag: Don't pick at me.
1. To shoot after singling out: The hunter picked the ducks off one by one.
2. Baseball To put out (a base runner standing off base) by making a quick throw to a fielder. Used especially of a pitcher or catcher.
3. Sports To intercept (a pass), as in football.
To tease or bully.
1. To choose or select: picked out a nice watch.
2. To discern from the surroundings; distinguish: picked out their cousins from the crowd.
To sort out or examine item by item: picked over the grapes before buying them.
1. To take up (something) with a hand or other body part or with an instrument: Could you pick up that book? The dog picked up the bone in its mouth.
2. To collect or gather: picked up some pebbles.
3. To tidy up; clean: picked up the bedroom.
4. To take on (passengers or freight, for example): The bus picks up commuters at five stops.
a. To acquire casually or by accident: picked up a new coat on sale.
b. To acquire (knowledge) by learning or experience: picked up French quickly.
c. To claim: picked up her car at the repair shop.
d. To buy: picked up some milk at the store.
e. To accept (a bill or charge) in order to pay it: Let me pick up the tab.
f. To come down with (a disease): picked up a virus at school.
g. To gain: picked up five yards on that play.
6. Informal To take into custody: The agents picked up six smugglers.
7. Slang To make casual acquaintance with, usually in anticipation of sexual relations.
a. To come upon and follow: The dog picked up the scent.
b. To come upon and observe: picked up two submarines on sonar.
c. To receive, detect, or register: Did the microphone pick up that sound?
9. To continue after a break: Let's pick up the discussion after lunch.
10. Informal To improve in condition or activity: Sales picked up last fall.
a. To prepare a sudden departure: She just picked up and left.
b. In golf, to grab one's ball from the ground while it is in play, indicating that one has given up.
pick and choose
To select with great care.
pick holes in
To seek and discover flaws or a flaw in: picked holes in the argument.
To find fault in a petty way; nitpick.
pick (one's) way
To find passage and make careful progress through it: picked her way down the slope.
pick (someone) to pieces
To criticize sharply.
pick up on Informal
1. To take into the mind and understand, typically with speed: is quick to pick up on new computer skills.
2. To notice: picked up on my roommate's bad mood and left him alone.
[Middle English piken, to prick, from Old English *pīcian, to prick, and from Old French piquer, to pierce (from Vulgar Latin *piccāre; see PIQUE).]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.