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pick up - definition and synonyms

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90% of the time, speakers of English use just 7,500 words in speech and writing. These words appear in red, and are graded with stars. One-star words are frequent, two-star words are more frequent, and three-star words are the most frequent.

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phrasal verb
Word Forms
present tense
I/you/we/theypick up
he/she/itpicks up
present participlepicking up
past tensepicked up
past participlepicked up
  1. 1
    [transitive] to lift someone or something up from a surface

    He picked the phone up as soon as it rang.

    She rushed to pick up the baby as soon as it started to cry.

    1. a.
      [transitive] to lift things up and put them in the place where they are kept in order to make a place neat

      I’ve already asked them to pick their toys up.

      I am constantly picking up the things the children leave lying around.

    2. b.
      [intransitive/transitive] American to make a place clean and neat
    3. c.
      [transitive] to lift something up and take it away

      Pick up a pamphlet for me too.

  2. 2
    [transitive] to go and meet someone or something that you have arranged to take somewhere in a vehicle

    Will you pick me up after the party?

    I need to pick up my luggage before leaving.

    1. a.
      informal to arrest someone and take them away in a car

      He was picked up in the early hours of Thursday morning.

    2. b.
      to take someone who is waiting by the road into your vehicle and take them somewhere

      We picked up a hitchhiker on the way.

  3. 3
    [transitive] to learn a new skill or start a habit without intending to

    She picked up a few German phrases while staying in Berlin.

  4. 4
    [transitive] informal to get an illness

    Most tourists are worried that they’ll pick up a nasty stomach bug.

  5. 5
    [transitive] informal to buy something

    a market where you can pick up some amazing bargains

    Synonyms and related words
  6. 6
    [transitive] informal to receive an electronic signal on a radio or similar piece of equipment

    I don’t think this thing can pick up foreign stations.

  7. 7
    [transitive] informal to earn money
  8. 8
    [transitive] informal to win something such as a prize

    The movie is tipped to pick up at least three Oscars.

  9. 9
    [transitive] to notice a smell or sound, or to notice that someone or something is present

    The dogs must have picked up his scent.

  10. 10
    [transitive] informal to start talking to someone because you want to have sex with them

    She went home with some man she picked up at a bar.

  11. 11
    [intransitive/transitive] to start something again, from the point where you stopped

    We’ll pick up this conversation later.

    pick up where you left off:

    He seems to think that we can get back together and just pick up where we left off.

  12. 12
    [intransitive] to improve

    They won’t let him out of the hospital until his health has picked up.

    1. a.
      if something such as the wind picks up, it becomes stronger
    2. b.
      pick up speed if something picks up speed, it starts to move faster
  13. 13
    pick up the bill/tab informal to pay for something

    Her father picks up the tab for her expensive lifestyle.

  14. 14
    pick up the pieces to try to return to a normal life after a difficult experience

    He walked out on his family, leaving his wife to pick up the pieces.

  15. 15
    pick up the threads (of something) to return to a situation that existed before something went wrong

    After the death of a partner, it can be difficult to pick up the threads of your life.

  16. From our crowdsourced Open Dictionary
    pick yourself up to recover from a fall or problem

    Nobody knows if Jim will ever pick himself up after his wife left him.

    Submitted by Vinni on 11/11/2016
See also main entry: pick
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a lifestyle focussing on simple pleasures such as comfort and cosiness in the home, and spending time with friends and family

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a form of location that involves the underwater detonation of a bomb which causes sound waves that are picked up by ships

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