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pick at (one)
To nag, hassle, or berate one, or to be very critical of or negative about one. My wife has been picking at me constantly ever since I lost my job. Why are you always picking at Jimmy? You know how sensitive he is.
pick at (something)
1. To pull at 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. You could tell Billy was sick because he only picked at his dinner and then went right to bed. Why are you picking at your food like that? Did you eat something earlier and spoil your appetite?
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.
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!
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]
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!