pick at

pick at

  1. (transitive, idiomatic) To touch, grab, handle, or pull tentatively or gingerly, using a utensil or one's fingers.
    • 1853, Charles Dickens, Bleak House, ch. 45:
      Mr Vholes remained immovable, except that he secretly picked at one of the red pimples on his yellow face with his black glove.
    • 1919, Henry Blake Fuller, Bertram Cope's Year, ch. 4:
      He began to pick at the fussy fringe on the arm of his chair.
    • 2009 Feb. 28, Laura M. Holson, "Putting a Bolder Face on Google ↗," New York Times (retrieved 3 Aug 2015):
      Picking at a salad in a conference room at Google’s headquarters here, Ms. Mayer says she is vexed by how some perceive her.
  2. (transitive, idiomatic) To pick on or repeatedly criticize (someone).
    • 1872, Louisa May Alcott, Work: A Story of Experience, ch. 9:
      "[N]oise and disrespect of no kind ain't pleasin' to him. His own folks behave becomin', but strangers go and act as they like. . . . Then we are picked at for their doin's."
    • 1904, Margaret Sidney, Five Little Peppers and their Friends, ch. 15:
      "And I know she's my aunt, but she needn't pick at me all the time," she added defiantly.
    • 2011 Oct. 14, Richard Barber, "Carol McGiffin: I've got a problem in the bedroom... Insomnia! ↗," Daily Mail (UK) (retrieved 3 Aug 2015):
      "I get crabby and pick at him about stupid things that wouldn’t normally bother me."

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