Meaning of PICK in English

I. pick 1 S1 W1 /pɪk/ BrE AmE verb [transitive]

[ Date: 1200-1300 ; Origin: Partly from unrecorded Old English pician ; partly from Old French piquer 'to prick' ]

1 . CHOOSE SOMETHING to choose a person or thing, for example because they are the best or most suitable:

Students have to pick three courses from a list of 15.

I don’t know which colour to pick.

Who’s going to pick the team for the match on Saturday?

pick somebody/something for something

I wasn’t picked for the hockey team.

pick somebody/something as something

The hotel was picked as the best small hotel in the area.

pick somebody to do something

He was picked to run in the 100 metres.

Russell spoke slowly, picking his words (=choosing what to say) very carefully.

⇨ ↑ picked

2 . FLOWERS/FRUIT ETC to remove a flower, fruit, nut etc from a plant or tree:

We picked some blackberries to eat on the way.

Amy picked a small bunch of wild flowers.

a dish of freshly picked peas

3 . REMOVE SOMETHING [always + adverb/preposition] to remove something carefully from a place, especially something small

pick something from something

Ahmed picked the melon pips from his teeth.

pick something off (something)

She was nervously picking bits of fluff off her sweater.

pick something out of something

The goalkeeper spent a lot of his time picking the ball out of the back of the net.

4 . pick your way through/across/among etc something to walk in a slow careful way, choosing exactly where to put your feet down:

She picked her way between the puddles.

He picked his way down the narrow staircase.

5 . pick your nose to remove ↑ mucus from your nose with your finger:

Don’t pick your nose!

6 . pick your teeth to remove bits of food from between your teeth with your finger or a small pointed object

7 . pick sb’s brains to ask someone who knows a lot about something for information and advice about it:

Have you got a minute? I need to pick your brains.

8 . pick a quarrel/fight (with somebody) to deliberately start a quarrel or fight with someone:

I could see he was trying to pick a fight with me.

9 . pick and choose to choose only the best people or things, or only the ones that you really like:

Come on, you haven’t got time to pick and choose.

10 . pick a lock to use something that is not a key to unlock a door, drawer etc:

It’s quite easy to pick the lock on a car door.

11 . pick a hole in something to make a hole in something by pulling it with your fingers:

He had picked a hole in his jumper.

12 . pick holes in something informal to criticize an idea or a plan by saying what its weak points are:

It’s easy to pick holes in her argument.

13 . pick something clean to remove all the meat from a bone when you are eating

14 . pick sb’s pocket to quietly steal something from someone’s pocket ⇨ pickpocket

15 . pick a winner informal to choose someone or something very good

16 . pick something to pieces informal to criticize something very severely and in a very detailed way:

I’m fed up with having my work picked to pieces.

17 . MUSICAL INSTRUMENT American English to play a musical instrument by pulling at its strings with your fingers SYN pluck

⇨ have a bone to pick with somebody at ↑ bone 1 (10)

• • •


▪ choose to decide which one of several things you want:

I chose a black dress.


Which dessert should I choose?

▪ pick to choose something, especially without thinking carefully. Pick is more informal than choose :

Pick any number from one to ten.

▪ select formal to choose something, especially after thinking carefully:

The committee will meet to select a new chairman.


All our instructors are carefully selected.

▪ opt for/go for to choose one thing instead of another:

Many car buyers opt for used vehicles.


I think I’ll go for the chocolate cake.

▪ decide on to choose something from many possible things, especially when the decision has been difficult or taken a long time:

Thomas had decided on a career as a writer.

▪ single out to choose one person or thing from a group because they are better, worse, more important etc than the others:

Why should he be singled out for special treatment?


One student was singled out for special attention.

▪ take your pick especially spoken to choose anything you want, especially when there are many different things available:

You can take your pick from Bodrum’s many bars and restaurants.

pick at something phrasal verb

1 . to eat only small amounts of food because you do not feel hungry or do not like the food:

Paige could only pick at her meal, forcing down a mouthful or two.

2 . to touch something many times with your fingers, pulling it slightly:

She was picking at her skirt.

pick somebody/something ↔ off phrasal verb

to point a weapon carefully at one person or animal in a group, and then shoot them:

There were gunmen in some of the buildings who picked off our men as they went past.

pick on somebody/something phrasal verb spoken

1 . to behave in an unfair way to someone, for example by blaming them or criticizing them unfairly:

Why don’t you pick on someone else for a change?

2 . British English to choose a particular person or thing:

Just pick on one job and try to get that finished.

pick somebody/something ↔ out phrasal verb

1 . CHOOSE to choose someone or something from a group:

She picked out a navy blue dress.

His story was picked out as the best by the judges.

2 . RECOGNIZE to recognize someone or something in a group of people or things:

She was able to pick out her father at the other side of the room.

I picked out Valerie’s voice from among the general conversation.

3 . SEE if you can pick something out, you can see it but not very clearly:

I could just pick out some letters carved into the stone.

4 . SHOWN CLEARLY [usually passive] if something is picked out, it is in a different colour or material from the background, so that it can be clearly seen:

His name was picked out in gold lettering.

5 . PLAY A TUNE to play a tune on a musical instrument slowly or with difficulty:

He sat at the piano and picked out a simple tune.

pick over something phrasal verb

to examine a group of things very carefully in order to choose the ones you want:

She was sitting at the kitchen table picking over a pile of mushrooms.

pick through something phrasal verb

to search through a pile of things to find things that you want:

Police are still picking through the rubble looking for clues to the cause of the explosion.

pick up phrasal verb

1 . LIFT SOMETHING/SOMEBODY UP pick something/somebody ↔ up to lift something or someone up:

He picked up the letter and read it.

The phone rang and I picked it up.

Mummy, can you pick me up?

2 . pick yourself up to get up from the ground after you have fallen:

Carol picked herself up and brushed the dirt off her coat.

3 . TIDY SOMETHING pick something ↔ up American English to make a room or building tidy:

Pick up your room before you go to bed.

4 . GET SOMETHING pick something ↔ up informal

a) to get or win something:

He’s already picked up three major prizes this year.

b) to buy something or get it from a shop etc:

I picked up an evening paper on the way home.

For more details, pick up a leaflet in your local post office.

c) to get an illness:

I picked up a virus while I was in America.

5 . COLLECT pick something ↔ up to collect something from a place:

I’ll pick my things up later.

She just dropped by to pick up her mail.

6 . LET SOMEBODY INTO A VEHICLE pick somebody ↔ up to let someone get into your car, boat etc and take them somewhere:

I’ll pick you up at the station.

The survivors were picked up by fishing boats from nearby villages.

7 . LEARN pick something ↔ up to learn something by watching or listening to other people:

I picked up a few words of Greek when I was there last year.

Mary watched the other dancers to see if she could pick up any tips.

8 . NOTICE pick something ↔ up to notice something that is not easy to notice, such as a slight smell or a sign of something:

I picked up a faint smell of coffee.

The dogs picked up the scent and raced off.

We picked up their tracks again on the other side of the river.

9 . RADIO/SIGNALS pick something ↔ up if a machine picks up a sound, movement, or signal, it is able to notice it or receive it:

The sensors pick up faint vibrations in the Earth.

I managed to pick up an American news broadcast.

10 . SEX pick somebody ↔ up to become friendly with someone you have just met because you want to have sex with them:

young women sitting around in bars waiting to be picked up


a) if you pick up where you stopped or were interrupted, you start again from that point:

We’ll meet again in the morning and we can pick up where we left off.

b) pick something ↔ up if you pick up an idea that has been mentioned, you return to it and develop it further:

I’d like to pick up what you said earlier.

This same theme is picked up in his later works.


a) if a situation picks up, it improves:

Her social life was picking up at last.

The economy is finally beginning to pick up again.

We’ve been through a bit of a bad patch, but things are picking up again now.

b) pick somebody up if a medicine or drink picks you up, it makes you feel better ⇨ pick-me-up

13 . ROAD pick something ↔ up if you pick up a road, you go onto it and start driving along it:

We take the A14 to Birmingham and then pick up the M5.

14 . TRAIN/BUS pick something ↔ up if you pick up a train, bus etc, you get onto it and travel on it

15 . pick up speed/steam to go faster:

The train was gradually picking up speed.

16 . pick up the bill/tab (for something) informal to pay for something:

Why should the taxpayer pick up the tab for mistakes made by a private company?

17 . WIND if the wind picks up, it increases or grows stronger

18 . COLOUR pick something ↔ up if one thing picks up a colour in something else, it has an amount of the same colour in it so that the two things look nice together:

I like the way the curtains pick up the red in the rug.

19 . CRIMINAL pick somebody ↔ up if the police pick someone up, they take them somewhere to answer questions or to be locked up:

He was picked up by police as he was trying to leave the country.

20 . pick up the pieces (of something) to try to make your life normal again after something very bad has happened to you:

Thousands of victims of the earthquake are now faced with the task of picking up the pieces of their lives.

21 . pick up the threads (of something) if you pick up the threads of something that you were doing, you try to return to it and start doing it again after it stopped or was changed:

Now that the war was over they could pick up the threads of their lives again.

22 . pick your feet up spoken used to tell someone to walk properly or more quickly

pick up after somebody phrasal verb informal

to tidy things that someone else has left untidy:

I’m tired of picking up after you!

pick up on something phrasal verb

1 . to notice something about the way someone is behaving or feeling, even though they are trying not to show it:

Children pick up on our worries and anxieties.

2 . to return to a point or an idea that has been mentioned and discuss it more:

I’d like to pick up on a point that Steven made earlier.

3 . pick somebody up on something to criticize someone slightly for something they have said:

I knew he was lying and I should have picked him up on it.

II. pick 2 BrE AmE noun

[ Sense 1-3: Date: 1500-1600 ; Origin: ⇨ ↑ pick 1 ]

[ Sense 4-5: Date: 1300-1400 ; Origin: pike ]

1 . [uncountable] if you can have your pick or take your pick of different things, you can choose which one you want:

Have a look at the menu and take your pick.

He knew he could take his pick of any of the girls in the office.

Sarah could have her pick of any university in the country.

have/get first pick (of something)

She always gets first pick of the videos.

2 . the pick of something informal the best things in a group:

In tonight’s programme we’ll be discussing the pick of this month’s new movies.

There were fifteen candidates for the job, and he was the pick of the bunch (=the best one) .

3 . [countable] informal your pick is the person or thing that you have chosen from a group SYN choice :

There are a lot of good horses in the race, but Archimedes would be my pick.

4 . [countable] a ↑ pickaxe

5 . [countable] informal a small flat object that you use for pulling at the strings of a musical instrument such as a ↑ guitar SYN plectrum

⇨ ↑ ice pick

Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English.      Longman - Словарь современного английского языка.