1 /pIk/ verb (T)
1 CHOOSE STH to choose someone or something good or suitable from a group or range of people or things: Students have to pick three courses from a list of 15. | Let me pick a few examples at random. | pick your words (=be careful about what you say): Trevor was picking his words with great care. | pick sb as: The group picked me as their spokesperson. | pick sb/sth for: Harris was picked for the England team. | pick sb to do sth: She has been picked to represent us in Rome.
—see also: picked, pick out pick 1
2 FLOWERS/FRUIT ETC to pull off or break off a flower, fruit, nut etc from a plant or tree: The cotton was picked by teams of men. | We picked some blackberries to eat on the way. | pick sb sth: He picked her a single red rose. | pick a bunch/a basketful etc: Amy picked a small bunch of wild flowers. | newly/freshly picked: Runner beans should be eaten young and freshly picked. | go grape/strawberry etc picking (=pick something either for your own use or as a part-time job)
3 SMALL THINGS/PIECES to remove small things from something, or pull off small pieces of something: pick sth from/off/out of: Ahmed picked the melon pips from his teeth. | She was nervously picking bits of fluff off her sweater. | pick a hole in sth (=make a hole in something by repeatedly pulling off small pieces of it)
4 pick your teeth to remove bits of food from between your teeth, with your fingers or something pointed
5 pick your nose to take mucus from your nose with your finger
6 pick sth clean to take all the meat from a bone
7 pick your way through/across/among etc to move slowly and carefully, choosing exactly where to put your feet down: She picked her way between the piles of books.
8 pick and choose to choose only the people or things you really like: We can't pick and choose, we'll have to take what they give us.
9 pick a quarrel/fight (with sb) to deliberately start a quarrel or fight with someone: He got drunk one night and picked a quarrel with his girlfriend.
10 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.
11 pick a lock (with) to use something that is not a key to unlock a door, drawer etc: She picked the lock with a hairpin.
12 pick holes (in) to criticize a plan, an idea etc: I had no trouble picking holes in her theory. | Stop picking holes! I bet you couldn't do any better.
13 pick sb's pocket to quietly steal something from someone's pocket: When all the fuss died down I found my pocket had been picked.
—see also: pickpocket
14 pick a winner informal an expression meaning to make a very good choice, sometimes used jokingly when you think someone has made a very bad choice
15 pick sb/sth to pieces informal to criticize someone or something very severely and in a very detailed way
16 MUSICAL INSTRUMENT AmE to play a musical instrument by pulling at its strings with your fingers; pluck 1 (5)
—see also: have a bone to pick with sb bone 1 (2) pick at sth phrasal verb (T)
1 to eat something taking small bites and without much interest, for example because you feel unhappy: He picked gloomily at his lamb chop.
2 to touch something repeatedly with your fingers, often pulling it slightly: The little boy was picking at his mother's sleeve, trying to get her attention.
pick sb/sth off phrasal verb (T) to shoot people or animals that are some distance away one at a time, by taking careful aim: The sniper was picking off our men one by one. pick on sb/sth phrasal verb (T) spoken
1 to choose someone to do an unpleasant job or blame someone for something, especially unfairly: Why does the boss always pick on me? | You big bully - pick on someone your own size!
2 to decide to choose someone or something: First, pick on some daily task that you all share.
pick sb/sth out phrasal verb (T)
1 to choose someone or something carefully: Pick out all the words in the poem that suggest despair.
2 to recognize someone or something in a group of people or things: It was easy to pick out Bob's father. | I could just pick out a few landmarks in the gloom.
a) if you pick out a shape, letter etc in a particular colour, you make it that colour so that it can be clearly seen: Every name on the memorial was picked out in scarlet edged with gold.
b) if a light picks someone or something out, it shines directly on it: The searchlight picked out a figure on the roof.
4 to play a tune on a stringed musical instrument slowly or with difficulty: He picked out a moody chord on his guitar.
pick over sth phrasal verb (T) to examine a group of small things very carefully in order to choose the ones you want: He turned the drawer upside-down and picked over the spilled contents. pick through sth phrasal verb (T) to search through a pile or group of things, and take the one that you want pick up phrasal verb
1 LIFT STH UP (transitive pick something up) to lift something up from a surface: She kept picking up magazines and putting them down again. | My wife picks the baby up whenever it cries. | The phone rang and I picked it up. | The vacuum cleaner won't pick this stuff up. | pick sth up by sth: The lioness picked up her cub by its neck. | bend/stoop (down) and pick sth up: Seth bent to pick up the papers. | pick your feet up (=used to tell someone to walk properly)
2 pick yourself up to get up from the ground after a fall: Carol picked herself up and dusted herself off.
3 TIDY STH (transitive pick something up)
a) to put toys, magazines etc away neatly: Please pick up your slippers.
b) AmE to make a place tidy: Connie had made some effort to pick up the apartment.
4 pick up after sb informal especially AmE to tidy things that someone else has left untidy: Who wants to get married and spend their life picking up after some man?
5 GET STH (transitive pick something up) informal
a) to find or get something, especially unexpectedly: I picked up a bug on holiday. (=became ill) | Hill only picked up four points from the two races. | We picked up some nice souvenirs. | Where can I pick up a cheap video camera?
b) to get or buy something, while you are going somewhere or doing something: I picked up an evening paper on the way home. | For more details, pick up a leaflet in your local post office.
6 COLLECT SB/STH (transitive pick something up) to collect someone who is waiting for you or something that you have left somewhere or need: I'll pick my things up later. | She just dropped by to pick up her mail. | My husband will pick you up in the car. | Pick me up at ..
7 SKILL/INFORMATION ETC (transitive pick something up) to get a skill, language, habit, idea or piece of information by chance rather than by deliberately trying to get it: “Where did you study Greek?” “I didn't, I just sort of picked it up when I lived there.” | If you sing it several times, your children will begin to pick up the words. | There's a tip I picked up from a professional model.
8 RADIO/RECORDING if a machine picks up a sound, a movement or the presence of something, it is able to receive it, record it, or transmit (1) it: The sensors pick up faint vibrations in the Earth. | I managed to pick up an American news broadcast.
9 LET SB INTO A VEHICLE (transitive pick someone up) to stop and let someone get into your car, boat etc: They were picked up by a fishing boat. | It is an offence to pick up or set down a hitchhiker on a motorway.
10 BECOME FRIENDLY WITH SB (transitive pick someone up) to become friendly with someone you have just met because you find them sexually attractive: I wish I could just go out and pick up a nice man. | Are you trying to pick me up?
11 NOTICE STH (transitive pick something up)
a) to smell a slight smell or hear a quiet sound: Then he picked up the even fainter aroma of apple pie. | The dogs picked up the scent and raced off.
b) to see something that you are looking for: She picked up a flicker of movement just beyond the fence. | We picked up the car again within a block. | pick up the track/trail/traces: Cody picked up the track of their horses but lost it again.
12 START AGAIN (intransitive, transitive pick something up)
a) if a conversation, meeting etc picks up or if you pick it up, it starts again from the point where it was interrupted: pick up where you left off: informal: He left her for two years and then came back expecting to pick up where they had left off!
b) if you pick up a point or an idea that has been mentioned, you return to it and develop it further: Tocqueville picks up this theme in his later works.
a) if business, your social life etc picks up, it improves: Trade is picking up nicely. | The economy is finally beginning to pick up again.
b) (transitive pick someone up) if a medicine, drink etc picks you up, it makes you feel better
—see also: pick­me­up
14 sb's speed/the wind/the beat etc picks up if someone's speed etc picks up, it increases or grows stronger: The breeze had now picked up considerably.
15 pick up speed/steam to go faster: The train was gradually picking up speed.
16 pick up the bill/tab (for sth) informal to pay for something: Why should the taxpayer pick up the tab for a private company's mistakes?
17 A COLOUR (transitive pick something up) if a colour or a piece of furniture picks up the colour of something else, it has small amounts of that colour in it: I like the way the curtains pick up the red and yellow in the rug.
18 A CRIMINAL (transitive pick someone up) if the police or another organized group of people pick someone up, they find them and take them somewhere, to answer questions or to be locked up: The coastguard picked him up at Dover. | She was picked up on prostitution charges.
19 pick up the pieces (of sth) if you pick up the pieces of a business, relationship etc that has gone seriously wrong, you try to get it back to the point where it was before: Small agricultural communities are picking up the pieces after the long depression.
20 pick up the threads (of sth) if you pick up the threads of a relationship, a way of life, or an idea that has been interrupted, you try to return to it again: When I got home after the war it wasn't so easy to pick up the threads of my ordinary life again.
pick up on phrasal verb (T)
1 (pick up on something)
a) to notice something that other people do not notice: It was very smart of you to pick up on the undercurrents between those two.
b) to notice something and react to it: I was trying to indicate that I didn't want to go, but they didn't pick up on it.
c) to return to a point or an idea that has been mentioned and discuss it further: Can I just pick up on your objections to the project?
2 (pick someone up on something) to criticize someone slightly for something they have said: The Senator picked him up on his use of the word `deception'.
2 noun
1 (U) choice: take your pick (=choose): You can have any one you like - take your pick! | have your pick of (=to be able to choose any one of a group of things): Sarah could have had her pick of any university in the country, but she chose her local college.
2 the pick of sth informal the best thing or things of a group: It's the pick of this month's new movies. | the pick of the bunch (=the best in the group): It's not much good, but it's the pick of the bunch.
3 (C) AmE informal someone or something that is chosen from among other people or things: Reno was able to name his own pick for the Criminal Division.
4 (C) a pickaxe: He put his pick and shovel over his shoulder.
5 (C) AmE informal a small, flat object for pulling at the strings of an instrument such as a guitar; plectrum
—see also: ice pick

Longman dictionary of contemporary English. 2004.


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