from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A pointed stake often driven into the ground to support a fence, secure a tent, tether animals, mark points in surveying, or, when pointed at the top, serve as a defense.
  • n. A detachment of one or more troops, ships, or aircraft held in readiness or advanced to warn of an enemy's approach: "The outlying sonar picket.... was to detect, localize, and engage any submarine trying to close the convoy” ( Tom Clancy).
  • n. A person or group of persons stationed outside a place of employment, usually during a strike, to express grievance or protest and discourage entry by nonstriking employees or customers.
  • n. A person or group of persons present outside a building to protest.
  • transitive v. To enclose, secure, tether, mark out, or fortify with pickets.
  • transitive v. To post as a picket.
  • transitive v. To guard with a picket.
  • transitive v. To post a picket or pickets during a strike or demonstration.
  • intransitive v. To act or serve as a picket.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A stake driven into the ground.
  • n. A type of punishment by which an offender had to rest his or her entire body weight on the top of a small stake.
  • n. A tool in mountaineering that is driven into the snow and used as an anchor or to arrest falls.
  • n. Soldiers or troops placed on a line forward of a position to warn against an enemy advance. It can also refer to any unit (for example, an aircraft or ship) performing a similar function.
  • n. A sentry. Can be used figuratively.
  • n. A protester positioned outside an office, workplace etc. during a strike (usually in plural); also the protest itself.
  • v. To protest, organized by a labour union, typically in front of the location of employment.
  • v. To enclose or fortify with pickets or pointed stakes.
  • v. To tether to, or as if to, a picket.
  • v. To guard, as a camp or road, by an outlying picket.
  • v. To torture by forcing to stand with one foot on a pointed stake.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A stake sharpened or pointed, especially one used in fortification and encampments, to mark bounds and angles; or one used for tethering horses.
  • n. A pointed pale, used in marking fences.
  • n. A detached body of troops serving to guard an army from surprise, and to oppose reconnoitering parties of the enemy; -- called also outlying picket.
  • n. By extension, men appointed by a trades union, or other labor organization, to intercept outsiders, and prevent them from working for employers with whom the organization is at variance.
  • n. A military punishment, formerly resorted to, in which the offender was forced to stand with one foot on a pointed stake.
  • n. A game at cards. See Piquet.
  • transitive v. To fortify with pointed stakes.
  • transitive v. To inclose or fence with pickets or pales.
  • transitive v. To tether to, or as to, a picket.
  • transitive v. To guard, as a camp or road, by an outlying picket.
  • transitive v. To torture by compelling to stand with one foot on a pointed stake.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To fortify with pickets or pointed stakes; also, to inclose or fence with narrow pointed boards or pales.
  • To fasten to a picket or stake, as a horse.
  • To torture by compelling to stand with one foot on a pointed stake.
  • To place or post as a guard of observation.
  • To make into pickets.
  • To place a picket or guard (see picket, n., 3) near a shop or mill, during a strike, to prevent men who do not belong to the striking organization or body from obtaining work in the shop, or to prevent the employers from securing such laborers.
  • n. A pointed post, stake, or bar, usually of wood.
  • n. Milit.: A guard posted in front of an army to give notice of the approach of the enemy: called-an outlying picket.
  • n. A detachment of troops in a camp kept fully equipped and ready for immediate service in case of an alarm or the approach of an enemy: called an inlying picket.
  • n. A small detachment of men sent out from a camp or garrison to bring in such of the soldiers as have exceeded their leave. See guard, post, etc.
  • n. A body of men belonging to a trades-union sent to watch and annoy men working in a shop not belonging to the union, or against which a strike is in progress.
  • n. A game at cards. See piquet.
  • n. A punishment which consists in making the offender stand with one foot on a pointed stake.
  • n. An elongated projectile pointed in front.
  • n. The tern or sea-swallow. Also pickie.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. a person employed to keep watch for some anticipated event
  • n. a protester posted by a labor organization outside a place of work
  • n. a form of military punishment used by the British in the late 17th century in which a soldier was forced to stand on one foot on a pointed stake
  • n. a wooden strip forming part of a fence
  • n. a detachment of troops guarding an army from surprise attack
  • v. serve as pickets or post pickets
  • n. a vehicle performing sentinel duty
  • v. fasten with a picket


French piquet, from Old French, from piquer, to prick; see pique.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From French piquet, from piquer ("to pierce"). (Wiktionary)



Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.

  • All quiet along the Potomac to-night,
    No sound save the rush of the river,
    While soft falls the dew on the face of the dead -
    The picket's off duty forever.

    Ethel Lynn Beers (1827-1879), All Quiet along the Potomac

    September 19, 2009