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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.



The thesaurus of synonyms and related words is fully integrated into the dictionary. Click on the thesaurus category heading under the button in an entry to see the synonyms and related words for that meaning.

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

    He picked the phone up and dialled.

    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 tidy

      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 tidy
    3. c.
      [transitive] to lift something up and take it away

      Pick up a leaflet from your doctor’s.

  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’ll pick up my luggage in the morning.

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

      We picked up a hitchhiker on the way.

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

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

  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] to notice a smell or sound, or to notice that someone or something is present

    The dogs must have picked up his scent.

  7. 7
    [intransitive/transitive] to start something again, from the point where you stopped

    We’ll pick up this conversation when I come back.

    pick up where you left off:

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

  8. 8
    [intransitive] to improve

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

    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
  9. 9
    [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.

  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 in a bar.

  11. 11
    [transitive] informal to earn money

    the huge salaries that footballers pick up these days

  12. 12
    [transitive] informal to win something such as a prize

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

  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.

See also main entry: pick


to fall over forwards so that your face hits the ground or another surface

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the activity of exploring abandoned buildings and other manmade structures

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