pick at (something)

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pick at (something)

1. To pull something with one's fingertips. If you keep picking at those scabs, that scrape is never going to heal! I always pick at the bottom of my shirt when I get nervous like that.
2. To eat a small amount of food in tiny bites and without much interest. I still felt quite ill, so I was only able to pick at the dinner before I had to go to bed. Why are you picking at your food like that? Did you eat something earlier and spoil your appetite?
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pick at someone or something

to be very critical of someone or something; to pick on someone or something. Why are you always picking at me? The critics picked at the little things, missing the serious problems.
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pick at something

 
1. Lit. to try to pull away bits of something. Don't pick at the bookbinding. It will fall apart.
2. Fig. to eat just a tiny bit of a meal or some kind of food. You are just picking at your food!
See also: pick

pick at

1. Pluck or pull at, especially with the fingers, as in She was always picking at her skirt with her nails. [1600s]
2. Eat sparingly and without appetite, as in He was just picking at his dinner. [Late 1500s]
3. Nag, badger, as in He's picking at me all day long. [Colloquial; second half of 1600s]
See also: pick

pick at

v.
1. To pluck or pull at something, especially with the fingers or with a pick: The musician picked at the guitar strings. The farmer picked at the bugs in the sheep's wool.
2. To eat something sparingly or without appetite: The child picked at the vegetables but ate all of the hamburger.
3. To nag someone: Don't pick at me—I'm doing the best I can!
See also: pick