Word of the Day: pluck

pluck (verb, noun) /plʌk/ LISTEN

A man plucking his eyebrows with a pair of tweezers

To pluck means ‘to pull off from the place of growth,’ as is done with flowers, feathers, or hairs. It also means ‘to remove feathers or hairs by pulling.’ In addition, pluck means ‘to grab and pull.’ In music, pluck means ‘to sound the strings of an instrument’ by pulling at them with the fingers. As a noun, pluck is the act of plucking, and it also means ‘courage.’

Example sentences

  • Alice walked through the meadow, plucking wild flowers along the way.
  • The farmer plucked the feathers from the chicken.
  • The child had fallen into the pond, but a passerby plucked her out.
  • Steve plucked the strings of the guitar.
  • Amber gave the rope a pluck to signal that she wanted to be pulled up.
  • It took a lot of pluck to stand up to that bully.

Words often used with pluck

pluck at: to grasp something and tug on it. Example: “The child plucked at his mother’s sleeve to get her attention.”

pluck up the courage: gather the courage to do something. Example: “Peter was nervous about moving to a new city, but he plucked up the courage to do it anyway.”

In pop culture

Plucky Duck is a Warner Brothers cartoon character from the 1990s TV show Tiny Toon Adventures. Watch him here as he tries to persuade film director Tim Burton to cast him (ie, let him act) as Batman. That sure takes a lot of pluck!

Additional information

You can also use pluck figuratively to mean ‘to take someone from a particular position (normally to lift them from quite a lowly position) in order to place them in a better position.’ For example, you could say, “The agent plucked the singer from obscurity and made him a star,” or “The boss recognized Amy’s potential and plucked her from the typing pool to try her out in a junior management position.”

Did you know?

You are probably familiar with people using tweezers to pluck their eyebrows, but there are also other techniques for removing these unwanted hairs, such as waxing, where hot wax is applied to the area where the hairs are, then pulled off with strip of fabric or paper. With threading, a technique that comes from Asia, a thin thread, or string, is twisted and rolled over the unwanted hairs, removing several at a time.

Other forms

plucker (noun), plucky (adjective)

Origin

Pluck dates back to before the year 1000, as the Old English verb pluccian (to pluck), and later the Middle English verb plukken. It is related to the Middle Low German plucken, as well as to the modern verbs plukken, in Dutch, and pflücken, in German.

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