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The act of removing nasal mucus (i.e., "boogers") with one's finger. Nose-picking is a filthy habit. I've spent a lot of time getting my kids to quit doing it.

pick a bone with (someone)

To fight, quarrel, or squabble with someone, usually over a specific point. When you get in any discussions on the Internet, you'll always encounter people who pick a bone with you purely for their own twisted entertainment. This meal is awful! Where's the manager? I'm going to go pick a bone with her!
See also: bone, pick

pick away at (something)

To focus on, scrutinize, or dwell upon every small or minor fault, problem, or failing of or about something. I wish the principal wouldn't pick away at the teachers like that. They're all trying to be the best teachers they can!
See also: away, pick

pick (one's) nose

1. Literally, to remove nasal mucus (i.e., "boogers") with one's finger. Tommy! Quit picking your nose, that's a filthy habit!
2. By extension, to dawdle, fool around, or waste time idly. No wonder we're losing so much money—half our staff just stands around picking their noses for most of the day!
See also: nose, pick

pick (someone or something) out of a hat

To select someone or something entirely at random. I don't understand why our company is being targeted. It's as if the IRS picked us out of a hat to scrutinize! It doesn't really matter who gets promoted to assistant manager—just pick a name out of a hat for all I care!
See also: hat, of, out, pick

pick up the hint

To understand, comprehend, or take notice of an indirect suggestion, implication, or insinuation. Halfway through the lecture, I picked up the hint my students were planning some kind of practical joke at the end of class. When are you going to pick up the hint that Sally doesn't want to date you anymore?
See also: hint, pick, up

pick (something) up where (one) left off

To resume or start (something) again from the last point where one had previously stopped. If it's OK with you, I'd like to go out on a date and try to pick up where we left off! OK, now that the rain's stopped, let's pick this game up where we left off!
See also: left, off, pick, up

pick (one's) battle(s)

To choose not to participate in minor, unimportant, or overly difficult arguments, contests, or confrontations, saving one's strength instead for those that will be of greater importance or where one has a greater chance of success. As a parent, you learn to pick your battles with your kids so you don't run yourself ragged with nagging them. The best politicians pick their battles wisely: if one becomes too embroiled in petty debates, one never gets anything done.
See also: pick

be ripe for the picking

To be in an ideal position or at the perfect stage to be utilized, benefited or profited from, taken advantage of, exploited, etc. (Alludes to fruit being at the right stage to be harvested.) Assert our brand early and aggressively enough, and this new market will be ripe for the picking. I heard that massive company just dropped their current PR team—that contract is ripe for the picking! This land is ripe for the picking if we can get the locals to sign over the rights to it.
See also: picking, ripe

pick up the gauntlet

To accept or attempt a challenge or invitation, as to fight, argue, or compete. When it comes to civil rights issues, Mary is always eager to pick up the gauntlet. When the heavyweight champion boasted that nobody could beat him, no one expected this newcomer to pick up the gauntlet.
See also: gauntlet, pick, up

pick up what (one) is putting down

slang To understand what someone is saying, especially when something is insinuated, rather than stated directly. A: "I'm going to say that I'm busy on Sunday, and I think you should too." B: "I'm picking up what you're putting down—I don't want to go to this family reunion either!" If I see you around here again, there's going to be trouble. Are you picking up what I'm putting down?
See also: down, pick, put, up, what


1. To choose something very carefully to ensure that the best option is chosen, perhaps through means that provide one an unfair advantage or from a selection that others do not have ready access to. I can't believe he left the company and then cherry-picked the best employee in my department! Yes, you will get to cherry-pick all the equipment that goes into your studio.
2. slang In sports such as basketball and soccer (football), to position oneself away from the current play on one's opponent's defensive end for an opportunity to receive the ball and score an easy basket or goal. We might not have gotten scored on if you had actually been playing defense instead of cherry-picking!


An intensifier used to express one's anger or frustration. Oh, he's just a cotton-picking fool—don't listen to a word he says!

easy pickings

1. People who are easy to persuade or influence. The freshmen are so terrified of us seniors that they're easy pickings and will definitely do whatever we say.
2. Things that are easy to obtain, often through theft. It's just easy pickings when people leave their jewelry out in their hotel rooms.
See also: easy, picking

pick up steam

To gradually grow in strength, momentum, power, influence, etc. Though few believed that the independence campaign would have a chance of succeeding, lately it's been picking up steam. They've been sluggish in the first half, but the team has finally started picking up steam.
See also: pick, steam, up

pick up sticks

To relocate from one's current residence. The more I think about how much we love the coast, the more I think we should just pick up sticks and find a place near the beach.
See also: pick, stick, up

pick up the slack

To do an extra amount of work that someone else is unable or unwilling to do. I'm going to need you to pick up the slack around the house when the baby arrives, because I'm going to literally have my hands full. The fourth member of our team has been totally unreliable, so the rest of us have had to pick up the slack.
See also: pick, slack, up

pick a fight

To act aggressively toward someone in order to provoke them. I don't know why she was so critical of me tonight—it's like she was trying to pick a fight or something.
See also: fight, pick

pick up speed

1. Literally, to begin moving faster. The sled picked up speed as it slid down the hill.
2. To become more valuable. Don't sell your house just yet—homes in this area should pick up speed in the summer.
See also: pick, speed, up

pick up the tab

To pay the bill for something, often at a bar or restaurant. Paul said he's picking up the tab tonight, so I'm definitely ordering another drink!
See also: pick, tab, up

cherry-pick something

Fig. to choose something very carefully. (As if one were closely examining cherries on the tree, looking for the best.) We have to cherry-pick the lumber we want to use for the cabinetry. Nothing but the best will do.

easy pickings

[of things] easy to get or steal; [of people] easy to get or persuade. The pickpockets found lots of easy pickings at the state fair.
See also: easy, picking

pick a fight (with someone)

 and pick a quarrel (with someone)
to start a fight or argument with someone on purpose. Are you trying to pick a fight with me? Max intended to pick a quarrel with Lefty.
See also: fight, pick

pick up speed

to increase speed. The train began to pick up speed as it went downhill. The car picked up speed as we moved into the left lane.
See also: pick, speed, up

pick up the tab

 and pick up the check
to pay the bill. Whenever we go out, my father picks up the tab. Order whatever you want. The company is picking up the check.
See also: pick, tab, up

slim pickings

A small amount left after others have taken a share. For example, After each of the children took what they wanted of Mother's things, it was slim pickings for the rest of the family . This expression alludes to animals devouring a carcass. [Early 1600s]
See also: picking, slim

pick up the gauntlet


take up the gauntlet

If you pick up the gauntlet or take up the gauntlet, you accept a challenge. Note: Gauntlets are long thick gloves which protect your hands, wrists, and forearms. Carlton, a key member of the team, was happy to pick up the gauntlet thrown down by his rival.
See also: gauntlet, pick, up

pick up steam

If a process or activity picks up steam, it starts to become stronger, faster, or more active. Note: The following expressions refer to the use of steam to provide power for a machine, especially a steam engine. Hopefully, the economy will pick up steam next year. Just as the presidential campaign was picking up steam, riots exploded in Los Angeles.
See also: pick, steam, up

pick up the tab

COMMON If you pick up the tab, you pay for something, often something that you are not responsible for. Pollard picked up the tab for dinner. If your girlfriend is always picking up the tab, the inequality in your relationship may be difficult for you both to handle.
See also: pick, tab, up

pick up the tab

pay for something. informal, chiefly North American
See also: pick, tab, up

pick up ˈspeed

go faster: The train began to pick up speed.
See also: pick, speed, up

pick up the ˈtab (for something)

(informal) pay the bill, especially for a group of people in a restaurant, etc: Her father picked up the tab for all the champagne at the wedding.
See also: pick, tab, up


and cotton-pickin’
mod. worthless; damned. (Folksy.) Who is this cotton-picking bigwig pushing us around?


n. too much minor criticism; overly particular criticism; nagging. Enough nit-picking! What are the major problems?
References in periodicals archive ?
In addition, Voxware is a forward-thinking company that was able to support the expansion of voice throughout our warehouse, for example, additional voice-driven applications beyond picking such as loading, put-away, replenishment, receiving and cycle counting.
One of the co-workers suggested cherry picking would make a nice outing for the patients.
Employees simply scan an order into the picking system for each storage slot on the cart, and the cart-mounted PC terminal then sets a course, alerting the employee to each stop.
After more than 80 years of picking Rose Parade floats without problem, Glendale found itself this spring in the middle of a major disagreement over the local float association's pick for the New Year's Day Tournament of Roses Parade.
The Vertex eFulfillment system controls four PicRite(R) pick-to-light subsystems, distributes orders from the WMS to the existing light-pick system, and tracks each re-usable tote from order induction through picking.
On a busy day in the NHL, there were 21 deals involving 30 players, with the Mighty Ducks picking up veteran center Peter Zezel from Vancouver for future considerations.
That meant I had to fall back on an old rule of handicapping: When picking between two porkers, always take the points.
The internet stock pick site has high average for picking winners.
Lukas took his drop from picking first to picking 10th in stride.
Picking food right from the ground is superior to buying supermarket products, said Oxnard resident Marlene Campbell, a retired teacher who was picking pumpkins Thursday.
After picking the tomatoes, the families take them home to prepare them for bottling.
I want people to start picking up after themselves.
Evangelina, her grandfather, James Piraino, 70, her grandmother, Elda, 67, and great-aunt, Clementine, 57, all from Highland Park, were among the hundreds of people who turned out for the first day of an annual weekend fruit picking at the Orcutt Ranch Horticulture Center.