There are 2 main definitions of pick in English:

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pick 1

Pronunciation: /pik/


1 [with object] Take hold of and remove (a flower, fruit, or vegetable) from where it is growing: I went to pick some flowers for Jenny’s room (as adjective with submodifier picked) freshly picked mushrooms
More example sentences
  • It has a mild tranquillising effect, which you can experience by merely picking the flower buds and inhaling their scent.
  • We would buy fresh fruit and pick fresh vegetables from a small garden in the back.
  • There was a man outside cutting wood for fire and a woman picking vegetables and fruits from a garden.
harvest, gather (in), collect, pluck
literary cull
1.1Take hold of and lift or move: he picked a match out of the box picking her up, he carried her into the next room
More example sentences
  • In pair lifts, one partner picks the other up off the ice and later places that partner back down on it.
  • Kevin moved in for a closer look, then picked one up.
  • The tracking system uses sensors hidden under Gillette shelves to detect when products are picked up.
1.2 [no object] (pick up) Golf Lift up one’s ball, especially when conceding a hole.
Example sentences
  • I think a whole lot of amateurs make a big mistake by picking up the ball on the putting green and not putting out.
  • He had to putt from three yards to tie when the other player picked up his opponent's ball marker rather than forcing him to putt out.
  • During a round last fall, he had a 20-foot putt that didn't matter, so I told him to pick up his ball.
2 [with object] Choose (someone or something) from a number of alternatives, typically after careful thought: maybe I picked the wrong career after all she left Jed to pick out some toys [no object]: this time, I get to pick
More example sentences
  • With such a distinguished cast to choose from, they picked the wrong man.
  • There certainly are a number of candidates to choose from when picking the players most likely to come through in key situations.
  • Also, maybe I was picking the wrong options in conversations but there was a lot that never got properly explained to me.
choose, select, pick out, single out, take, opt for, elect, decide on, settle on, fix on, sift out, sort out;
choose, select, single out, opt for, decide on, elect, settle on, fix on, sift out, sort out;
2.1 (pick one's way) [with adverbial of direction] Walk slowly and carefully, selecting the best or safest places to put one’s feet: he picked his way along the edge of the track, avoiding the potholes
More example sentences
  • I waited for a break in the steady stream of visitors and set off, head down, picking my way slowly and carefully across.
  • Without another word, the four strange and unlikely companions set off on foot, picking their way carefully through the field.
  • They were picking their way slowly along the gravel of the stream bed.
3 [no object] Repeatedly pull at something with one’s fingers: the old woman was picking at the sheet
More example sentences
  • My fingers started picking at my chipped black nail polish and I kept my eyes down, concentrating on the paint chipping.
  • His fingers were picking at a thread on my quilt.
  • He looked at his fingers again, picking at the calluses on his left hand.
3.1 [with object] Make (a hole) in fabric by doing this.
Example sentences
  • Somebody, at one point, had carefully picked a hole in the fabric, leaving a peephole to the room.
  • My sister picked a hole in her navy school tights as we sat and listened.
3.2Eat food or a meal in small amounts or without much appetite: she picked at her breakfast
More example sentences
  • Julie picked at the small amount of food she had put on her plate.
  • I picked at my food, my entire appetite deserting me after the first few mouthfuls.
  • Suze picked at her Thai food, and looked at the assembled table with her deep eyes.
nibble (at), toy with, play with, eat like a bird
3.3 [with object] Remove unwanted matter from (one’s nose or teeth) by using one’s finger or a pointed instrument.
Example sentences
  • I injured my index finger while picking my nose.
  • And never lick your fingers, pick your teeth, or floss at the table.
  • The most disgusting thing I encounter is waiters picking their noses or cutting their fingers.
3.4Criticize someone in a petty way: now, please don’t start picking at Ruth
More example sentences
  • But I'm more mad than sad - mad at the press for its relentless picking at her faults while too often giving her opponent a softer ride.
  • But Ruben liked to pick and pick at her until she exploded so he could turn around and call her childish.
  • As he engages with the merciless classmates who rag him and pick at him every day, he imagines himself in computer graphics in the armour of the warrior.
4 [with object] Pluck the strings of (a guitar or banjo).
Example sentences
  • Velvety vocals, sung with tenderly picked guitars and gently played piano occasionally accompanied by some harsh brass made this record.
  • As we came to our first town, he suddenly started picking some demonically fast banjo.
  • The first time I heard his exact guitar picking and gentle voice I was hooked; the sophistication and pop sensibility of his songs left me fuzzy-warm.
4.1 (pick something out) Play a tune on a guitar or banjo slowly or with difficulty: she began to pick out a rough melody on the guitar
More example sentences
  • She started picking a gentle tune out of the instrument, the rich melody spiraling into the mild night air.
  • He hung up and went back into the basement studio and picked up a guitar and picked out a melody that had been playing around in the back of his head for the last few hours.
  • Maybelle picked out a melody on the bass strings with her thumb, while she used the index finger of the same hand to brush up and down across the higher strings, combining both chords and rhythm.


1 [in singular] An act or the right of selecting something from among a group of alternatives: take your pick from our extensive menu Laura should have first pick
More example sentences
  • Mains include turbot in a langoustine and scallop sauce and monkfish kebabs, or take your pick from the hefty choice of daily specials.
  • We were then invited to take our pick from a choice of starters.
  • Meanwhile, if you want to ring the changes with sandwiches you make at home, then take your pick from this delicious recipe selection.
choice, selection, option, decision;
preference, favorite
1.1 (the pick of) informal The person or thing perceived as the best in a particular group: he was the pick of the bunch
More example sentences
  • The anchor man's propensity to select the correct pass at all times once more saw him stand out as the pick of City's trialists before his half-time substitution.
  • His production of John Marston's 1603 tragi-comedy is not, for me, the pick of the bunch.
  • In all honesty, he is probably the pick of a bad bunch.
best, finest, top, choice, choicest, prime, cream, flower, prize, pearl, gem, jewel, jewel in the crown, crème de la crème, elite
1.2Someone or something that has been selected: the club made him their first pick
More example sentences
  • "As soon as they opened the case and charged him, he was their pick and there was no suggestion of letting off."
  • The Rays called across the bay on Tuesday to tell him he was their pick in the third round of the amateur draft.
  • The said he was their pick because he took an airline that was losing money and made it profitable.
2 Basketball An act of blocking or screening a defensive player from the ball handler, allowing an open shot.
Example sentences
  • In the triangle, players don't set picks off the ball.
  • At the same time the low man on ball side also goes away from the ball to set a pick.
  • If the ball handler brings the defender wide around the pick, its not the screener's fault.



pick and choose

Select only the best or most desirable from among a number of alternatives.
Example sentences
  • It just happens - whatever comes out comes out and then we pick and choose.
  • But he still liked the idea of being the guy who gets to pick and choose among a bevy of beauties.
  • We had to sign up to the agreement, we couldn't pick and choose.

pick someone's brains (or brain)

informal Obtain information by questioning someone who is better informed about a subject than oneself.
Example sentences
  • He knew the business side so I picked his brain on that subject.
  • They send us questionnaires to pick our brains.
  • The quiz master joined us and we tried to pick his brain about where he gets his questions from.

pick something clean

Completely remove the flesh from a bone or carcass.
Example sentences
  • I lost all decorum of table etiquette as I held the chop between my fingers and picked the bone clean.
  • The Variant Cs would pick his bones clean in several hours.
  • Flying scavengers have picked the bone clean.

pick one's feet up

Raise one’s feet clear of the ground when walking.
Example sentences
  • Walking is easier if you keep your feet facing forwards and pick your feet up with every step you take.
  • A friend saw it happen and said the horse just never picked his feet up, even though he looked ready to jump it right in stride.
  • He picked his feet up neatly and high, stepping smartly as if he was on parade or being displayed before a panel of judges.

pick a fight (or quarrel)

Talk or behave in such a way as to provoke an argument or fight.
Example sentences
  • ‘If they want to pick a fight, they've picked a fight with the wrong guy,’ he said in a telephone interview.
  • I think one of the reasons why I rarely, if ever, actually pick a fight or argument is because I play the scene out inside my head before I do anything.
  • ‘Sometimes he just almost seems to pick a fight with people for the sake of picking a fight, and I don't think that can be very helpful,’ he says.
provoke, start, cause, incite, stir up, whip up, instigate, prompt, bring about

pick holes in

Find fault with.
Example sentences
  • ‘Once you get into the swing of auditions, you start to realise it's possible to pick holes in almost anything,’ he grins.
  • My stuff was so hard to pick holes in, however, that almost all of it did eventually get published somewhere in the academic journals.
  • What is wrong with us that we need to pick holes in even the most successful initiatives instead of praising them for their success?
find fault with, pick apart, deconstruct, query, quibble with;
deflate, puncture

pick a lock

Open a lock with an instrument other than the proper key.
Example sentences
  • One of the first lessons that the agents learned was that you didn't pick a lock - instead you manipulated or pushed the lock back, using a protractor.
  • The posters pictured a person crouched down, picking a lock, and a woman making an emergency call.
  • If a person picks a lock that belongs to someone else, chances are the person will be arrested and face serious breaking-and-entering charges.

pick someone's pockets

Steal something surreptitiously from another person’s pocket.
Example sentences
  • I let his hands roam, explore, the knife having disappeared once more, probably back into his pocket, but I didn't dare try picking his pockets to get it back this time, not after just having succeeded in distracting him from a tantrum.
  • They have effectively picked our pockets in full view of us and we can't do a thing!
  • He would pick their pockets and swipe their watches without them noticing - always owning up afterwards, of course.

pick someone/something to pieces (or apart)

Criticize someone or something severely and in detail.
Example sentences
  • Silenced by infirmity, if not by simple good taste, the former leader has had to stand aside while her legacy is picked apart.
  • I could spend more time picking his column apart, but I won't because I think you get my general point.
  • Once you start picking things apart, you'll never solve the problem.

pick up the pieces

Restore one’s life or a situation to a more normal state, typically after a shock or disaster.
Example sentences
  • His latest post will, in many ways, be about picking up the pieces to restore public confidence in social services.
  • Why would someone else not have picked up the pieces in that situation?
  • With mother hospitalised through the shock, Zoe is left to pick up the pieces.

pick up the threads

Resume something that has been interrupted.
Example sentences
  • You have to be able to remember where you were so you can pick up the threads and continue after an interruption.
  • So, we are slowly picking up the threads of our ‘normal’ lives although I confess I do feel as if I need a vacation from my vacation.
  • He can now look forward to picking up the threads of his life having, to repeat his mother's words been ‘given the gift of life’.

Phrasal verbs


pick someone/something off

Shoot a member of a group of people or things, aiming carefully from a distance.
Example sentences
  • The flames of war burned brighter than ever within this divided family as one by one the members were picked off.
  • Towards the middle of the game you will find yourself sneaking around, picking the enemy off from a distance, or using items to distract your opponents.
  • John squinted at the rusty cans, deciding which one to shoot first, and picked them off one by one.
Baseball 1.1 Put out a runner by a pickoff.
Example sentences
  • In a game at Tropicana Field last season between the Twins and Devil Rays, three Devil Ray base runners were picked off in one inning!
  • Also, what if the pitcher picks the runner off base before he makes his first pitch to home?
  • He was known as the ‘computer’ of the team, possessing an uncanny ability to pick runners off of second base via the ‘hidden ball trick.’

pick on

Repeatedly single (someone) out for blame, criticism, or unkind treatment in a way perceived to be unfair.
Example sentences
  • They argue with each other, pick on, insult and criticise each other, and they have fun doing it as well.
  • Madison's been telling me a little boy in her class has been picking on her, teasing her.
  • Like playground bullies, they've picked on the weakest of the pack.
bully, victimize, tyrannize, torment, persecute, criticize, harass, hound, taunt, tease
informal get at, have it in for, be down on, needle

pick someone/something out

Distinguish someone or something among a group of people or things: Lester picked out two familiar voices
More example sentences
  • But the selective pointillism that picks it out identifies an essential pre-requisite for effective political action.
  • ‘I feel a bit vulnerable to be honest, because I haven't had any experience of the media,’ she says, ‘and even before we'd spoken to anyone they'd already sort of picked us out and slated us.’
  • In November, the victim picked the robber out of a video identification parade.
3.1(Of a light) illuminate an object by shining directly on it.
Example sentences
  • I asked him how he was caught and he told me that although he walked very small steps, every few metres dropping down into the grass, suddenly a small plane landed and picked him out in its lights.
  • The trios move in alternation as light from above picks them out, the grounded people waving their limbs like neophyte swimmers or fledglings learning to fly.
  • Again he came down past us, this time closer to the boat, and the light picked him out just below the surface.
(usually be picked out)3.2 Distinguish shapes or letters from their surroundings by painting or fashioning them in a contrasting color or medium: the initials are picked out in diamonds
More example sentences
  • The fuel tank was painted the same light blue as the wings with the retaining straps picked out in red to match the chassis.
  • The elaborate metalwork of the handsome old bridges spanning the river is picked out in brilliant colours.
  • Only the shields are picked out with carefully selected colours.

pick something over (or pick through)

Examine or sort through a number of items carefully: they picked through the charred remains of their home
More example sentences
  • They had been friends since they were seven, they didn't need to talk incessantly not to mention the events of the weekend had been picked over in detail on the phone the night before anyway.
  • She was certain news of her sudden sickness would reach the ears of the girls who had threatened her, and every little detail would be picked over, scrutinized even, to see if she had in any way flirted with or made a move on Mike.
  • Such problems have been picked over regularly by all and sundry, including this paper.

pick up

Become better; improve: my luck’s picked up
More example sentences
  • But it does not expect an improvement until trade starts picking up towards the end of the winter.
  • General sales need to pick up before the business improves.
  • He doesn't see improvement until job growth picks up.
improve, recover, be on the road to recovery, rally, make a comeback, bounce back, perk up, look up, take a turn for the better, turn the/a corner, be on the mend, make headway, make progress
5.1Become stronger; increase: the wind has picked up
More example sentences
  • I noticed the wind picking up and the lightening increasing, so I figured rain couldn't be far behind.
  • As the pace of the storm increased the wind picked up, driving down out of the hills and across the high grasslands.
  • Forecasters are predicting that the icy conditions will continue into next week with easterly winds picking up and a strong possibility of snow.

pick oneself up

Stand up again after a fall.
Example sentences
  • If he fell, he picked himself up and got straight back on to the climb.
  • But it doesn't seem to matter - when they fall they simply pick themselves up, dust themselves off and get straight back on, just as you're supposed to.
  • However, he quickly picked himself up and the ball fell kindly into his path once again.

pick someone up

Go somewhere to collect someone, typically in one’s car and according to a prior arrangement.
Example sentences
  • I don't even remember picking you up from the train station!
  • The time Carla picked me up from the train station in my mother's manual car, even though at that stage she could only drive an automatic.
  • My aunt lives there, and my grandma is trying to arrange for her to pick me up from the train station.
7.1Stop for someone and take them into one’s vehicle or vessel.
Example sentences
  • The regular train came along, stopped, picked her up and off she went.
  • The ferry stopped, launched a boat and picked them up - they had paddled 14 miles across the Channel - at 7am.
  • And it has its own jetty, where you can be picked up by boat and spirited to the superior diving and snorkelling sites around Tiran.
informal7.2 Arrest someone.
Example sentences
  • When told of the reason for the rejected claim, the patient produced an arrest warrant stating that she has been picked up for prostitution and her prescription was confiscated by the police.
  • Two weeks ago, Alex was picked up and arrested for assault and prostitution.
  • She called the police, who promptly picked him up.
arrest, apprehend, detain, take into custody, seize
informal nab, run in, bust
informal7.3 Casually strike up a relationship with someone one has never met before, as a sexual overture.
Example sentences
  • If I'm in drag, and he picks me up at a gay bar, is it a queer relationship?
  • He was with the woman who had picked him up at the train station, a Colombian poet.
  • I want you to stop picking me up for practice or bothering me in the halls.
7.4Make someone feel more energetic and cheerful: songs to pick you up and make you feel good

pick something up

1Collect something that has been left elsewhere: Wanda came over to pick up her things
More example sentences
  • Anyway, they came to pick up her things that were stored in the basement this summer.
  • I was emailed to pick it up from another building.
  • His brother picked it up and delivered it to him within moments.
1.1 informal Pay the bill for something, especially when others have contributed to the expense: as usual, we had to pick up the tab
More example sentences
  • Unlike the board, whose legal bills are picked up by the public, opponents of school closings often run out of money to continue their fights.
  • But the Council is £200,000 in the red, the executive committee heard yesterday, and if that is still the case next year the bill will be picked up by the authority.
  • In which event, any medical bills will be picked up by the taxpayer, not by the company.
1.2North American Tidy a room or building.
Example sentences
  • So, instead of just verbally telling him, "Pick up your room," we write down: Put dirty clothes in laundry basket, Put magazines on shelf, Put LEGOs back in box.
  • We picked up the room, got dressed, and prepared Brandon's breakfast.
  • I set Lucie on the couch and picked up the room making it just as neat as it was when we left.
2Obtain, acquire, or learn something, especially without formal arrangements or instruction: he had picked up a little Russian from his father
More example sentences
  • Coming from a keyboard, having learned to read, once I picked it up and learned how to blow it, the music came quicker.
  • He picked it up quickly, learning by himself because he thought it was fun.
  • Posters around the village give details of the events and information where competition forms can be picked up.
find, discover, come across, stumble across, happen on, chance on;
informal get hold of, get/lay one's hands on, get one's mitts on, bag, land
hear, hear tell, get wind of, be told, learn;
glean, garner
2.1Catch an illness or infection.
Example sentences
  • Meningococcal meningitis vaccines is also required by the authorities as these infections can be picked up from fellow travellers (carriers).
  • For every patient and their family there is no acceptable level of MRSA but we all know that when people are in an acute hospital system, there is a chance that an infection can be picked up.
  • Once chlamydia has been successfully treated, it won't come back unless a new infection is picked up.
catch, contract, get, come down with
3Detect or receive a signal or sound, especially by means of electronic apparatus.
Example sentences
  • These signals are picked up by a handheld receiver.
  • The reflected sound waves are picked up by the crystal element and transformed back into electric signals.
  • One of its benefits will be anyone sending distress signals from land or sea will know immediately if their signal has been picked up.
receive, detect, get, hear
3.1 (also pick up on) Become aware of or sensitive to something: she is very quick to pick up emotional atmospheres
More example sentences
  • Body work performed on owners and pets works well because animals pick up on stress and often mimic their owners.
  • A lot of infections can be picked up very early.
  • Sufferers normally have a one-in-three chance of survival, depending on how early the symptoms are picked up.
3.2Find and take a particular road or route.
Example sentences
  • We then picked up the road again and followed it through to our next downhill, a rocky, fast, narrow trail which deposits the rider at great speed at the foot of Biggin Hill.
  • You can pick the road up in Saunces, at the top of town next to Viares Square, home of the Town Hall.
  • I'm already looking forward to returning in a few years to pick the road up where I've left off.
4 (also pick up) Resume something: they picked up their friendship without the slightest difficulty
More example sentences
  • I didn't get a chance to finish it but I think I'll pick it up soon.
  • The two young men were acquainted with each other and picked up their friendship again Sunday.
  • They laughed about their shared affection for Martinis and picked up their friendship where they'd left off.
lift, take up, raise, hoist, scoop up, gather up, snatch up
4.1 (also pick up on) Refer to or develop a point or topic mentioned earlier: Dawson picked up her earlier remark
More example sentences
  • And given the scientist adherence to a kind of Creative Commons ethos, their developments could be picked up and expanded upon by anyone in those fields, but no one could actually own the development itself.
  • I think it's interesting what traditions are picked up on and what countries are referenced in that.
  • For when he did make an outrageous remark it was picked up on, and he was fired within hours.
4.2(Of an object or color) attractively accentuate the color of something else by being of a similar shade.
Example sentences
  • This will provide a nice grassy feeling underfoot, and you can easily pick this color up in throw pillows or other accents.
  • The focal is a lampwork bead with a dark coral base and encased in silvered glass which picks up the blues and creams very well from the necklace.
  • The area rug picks up the blues in the pre-existing furniture while introducing a range of browns into the mix.

pick up after

chiefly US Tidy up things left strewn around by (someone).
Example sentences
  • Though she would never admit to it, it sure felt good to have a man to pick up after.
  • It's an idea that seems to be garnering preliminary approval from outdoor professionals who must log time picking up after careless campers.
  • So I made a bold decision: I cleaned my room, threw out all the dirty candy wrappers and half finished pop cans, dusted off old books, and picked up after myself.



Pronunciation: /ˈpikəbəl/
Example sentences
  • Ingenious 200 years ago, they are eminently pickable today.
  • And one of the things that delights any child is the sight of a tree full of ripe fruit freely pickable.
  • If the loopholes by which car doors could be broken into were corrected, I guarantee you that the locks would be pickable - cars have to be built so that they can be broken into, paradoxically.


Middle English (earlier as pike, which continues in dialect use): of unknown origin. Compare with Dutch pikken 'pick, peck', and German picken 'peck, puncture', also with French piquer 'to prick'.

  • pike from Old English:

    The earliest recorded meaning of pike is for a pickaxe, pick simply being a variant form of pike. The freshwater fish the pike gets its name from the resemblance of its long pointed jaw to the old infantry weapon called a pike, which has a pointed steel or iron head on a long shaft. While basically the same word as Old English pike, this came into English during the 16th century from French piquer ‘to pierce’. In dialect piked ‘pointed’ became picked and then peaked, and this is probably the origin of the word peak (Late Middle English) for the pointed top of something such as a mountain. The Australian and New Zealand expressions to pike out, ‘to withdraw or go back on a plan or agreement’, and to pike on, ‘to let someone down’, go back to a 15th- and 16th-century use to pike yourself ‘to provide yourself with a pilgrim's pike or staff’, and so ‘to depart, leave’. See also plain

Words that rhyme with pick

artic, brick, chick, click, crick, flick, hand-pick, hic, hick, kick, lick, mick, miskick, nick, pic, quick, rick, shtick, sic, sick, slick, snick, stick, thick, tic, tick, trick, Vic, wick

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: pick

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There are 2 main definitions of pick in English:

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pick 2

Pronunciation: /pik/


1A tool consisting of a long handle set at right angles in the middle of a curved iron or steel bar with a point at one end and a chisel edge or point at the other, used for breaking up hard ground or rock.
Example sentences
  • The newer combination entrenching tool added a pick, which helped break up hard soil.
  • The head is welded directly to the shaft, so if the pick breaks, the tool is ruined.
  • The raiders broke in the door of the post office at the corner in the village and tried to dislodge the safe using picks and chisels.
1.1 short for ice pick.
2An instrument for picking: an ebony hair pick
More example sentences
  • You even carry a hair pick in the back pocket of your excruciatingly tight black jeans - just in case it gets a little windy.
  • Using a hair pick or the tail of a rattail comb separate out a strand of hair from the front section of the hairline near the forehead.
  • Tousle the hair with a styling pick before finishing with a holding spray.
2.1 informal A plectrum: a pink guitar pick
More example sentences
  • He admitted this was only his fourth show without a backing band, which may account for him dropping his pick into the guitar midsong.
  • Pat threw his drumsticks into the crowd, while Jay threw his guitar pick.
  • He picks up a handful of guitar picks and heads for the checkout.
2.2 short for toothpick.


Middle English: variant of pike2.

  • pike from Old English:

    The earliest recorded meaning of pike is for a pickaxe, pick simply being a variant form of pike. The freshwater fish the pike gets its name from the resemblance of its long pointed jaw to the old infantry weapon called a pike, which has a pointed steel or iron head on a long shaft. While basically the same word as Old English pike, this came into English during the 16th century from French piquer ‘to pierce’. In dialect piked ‘pointed’ became picked and then peaked, and this is probably the origin of the word peak (Late Middle English) for the pointed top of something such as a mountain. The Australian and New Zealand expressions to pike out, ‘to withdraw or go back on a plan or agreement’, and to pike on, ‘to let someone down’, go back to a 15th- and 16th-century use to pike yourself ‘to provide yourself with a pilgrim's pike or staff’, and so ‘to depart, leave’. See also plain

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: pick

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