pick (v.)

early 13c., picken "to peck;" c. 1300, piken "to work with a pick, to dig up," probably representing a fusion of Old English *pician "to prick," (implied by picung "a piercing, pricking," an 8c. gloss on Latin stigmata) with Old Norse pikka "to prick, peck," both from a Germanic root (source also of Middle Dutch picken, German picken "to pick, peck"), perhaps imitative. Influence from Middle French piquer "to prick, sting" (see pike (n.1)) also is possible, but that French word generally is not considered a source of the English word. Related: Picked; picking.

Meaning "to pluck with the hand or fingers, gather, break off, collect" (fruit, etc.) is from early 14c.; that of "to prick or pierce with a pointed instrument" also is from early 14c. The meaning "to choose, sort through carefully in search of valuable material" emerged late 14c., from the earlier meaning "to pluck with the fingers." The sense of "to rob, plunder" (c. 1300) weakened to a milder sense of "steal petty things, filch or pilfer from" by late 14c.  Meaning "to eat with small bites" is from 1580s.

Of locks, etc., "probe or penetrate with a pointed tool," early 15c. The meaning "to pluck (a banjo, etc.) with the fingers" is recorded from 1860. To pick a quarrel, fight, etc. is from mid-15c.; to pick at "annoy with repeated fault-finding" is from 1670s. To pick on "single out for adverse attention" is from late 14c. Also see pick up.

To pick off "shoot one by one" is recorded from 1810; baseball sense, of a pitcher or catcher, "to put out a runner caught off base" is by 1939. To pick and choose "select carefully" is from 1660s (choose and pick is attested from c. 1400). To pick (one's) nose is by mid-15c.

pick (n.1)

c. 1200, "pointed iron tool for breaking up rock or ground," apparently a variant of pike (n.4).

pick (n.2)

a name of pointed instruments of various kinds, and also other noun senses, in most cases from pick (v.) but in some perhaps with some influence of pick (n.1). Meaning "a blow with a pointed instrument" is from mid-15c; the sense in toothpick is from late 15c. The meaning "plectrum for a guitar, lute, etc." is from 1895. As a type of basketball block, from 1951. The meaning "right of selection, first choice" is by 1772, hence "choicest part or example" (by 1858). Meaning "instrument for picking locks" is by 1890.

updated on June 08, 2020

Definitions of pick from WordNet
pick (v.)
select carefully from a group;
She finally picked her successor
He picked his way carefully
pick (v.)
look for and gather;
pick mushrooms
pick flowers
Synonyms: pluck / cull
pick (v.)
harass with constant criticism;
Don't always pick on your little brother
Synonyms: blame / find fault
pick (v.)
pick a fight or a quarrel
pick (v.)
remove in small bits;
pick meat from a bone
pick (v.)
remove unwanted substances from, such as feathers or pits;
Synonyms: clean
pick (v.)
pilfer or rob;
pick pockets
pick (v.)
pay for something;
pick up the tab
pick up the burden of high-interest mortgages
Synonyms: foot
pick (v.)
pull lightly but sharply with a plucking motion;
Synonyms: pluck / plunk
pick (v.)
attack with or as if with a pickaxe of ice or rocky ground, for example;
Synonyms: break up
pick (v.)
hit lightly with a picking motion;
Synonyms: peck / beak
pick (v.)
eat intermittently; take small bites of;
Synonyms: nibble / piece
pick (n.)
the person or thing chosen or selected;
he was my pick for mayor
Synonyms: choice / selection
pick (n.)
the quantity of a crop that is harvested;
it was the biggest peach pick in years
he sent the first picking of berries to the market
Synonyms: picking
pick (n.)
the best people or things in a group;
Synonyms: cream
pick (n.)
the yarn woven across the warp yarn in weaving;
Synonyms: woof / weft / filling
pick (n.)
a small thin device (of metal or plastic or ivory) used to pluck a stringed instrument;
Synonyms: plectrum / plectron
pick (n.)
a thin sharp implement used for removing unwanted material;
he used a pick to clean the dirt out of the cracks
pick (n.)
a heavy iron tool with a wooden handle and a curved head that is pointed on both ends;
they used picks and sledges to break the rocks
Synonyms: pickax / pickaxe
pick (n.)
a basketball maneuver; obstructing an opponent with one's body;
he was called for setting an illegal pick
pick (n.)
the act of choosing or selecting;
you can take your pick
Synonyms: choice / selection / option
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