Is this sentence correct:

I picked up this word in the dictionary


Do you know any synonyms to "pick up" in this context? Thanks in advance!

  • 1
    Do you mean look up? Commented May 7, 2014 at 8:48
  • Yes, thank you! If you know more synonyms, write please.
    – user5369
    Commented May 7, 2014 at 11:45
  • 1
    I don't know if these are synonyms, but to look up a word means to find a word, or to search for a word. Commented May 7, 2014 at 12:39

3 Answers 3


Using "pick up" in this way is not very idiomatic.

To "pick up" a word, idea, or skill, means to learn it informally; it is often used to minimize the importance of the word, idea, or skill. So you would, for example, say:

While I was living in Moscow I picked up a little Russian.

But you would be less likely to say:

I picked up a little Russian by taking an intensive Russian course.

unless you were trying to minimize the amount you actually knew:

I took an intensive Russian course, but only picked up a little of the language.

When it comes to a single word, "picked up" normally describes an informal process, where you learn the word by being exposed to it. So it might make sense to say:

When did you start saying "metaphysical" so often?

Oh, I just picked up the word hanging out with my friend Aristotle.

You would not say:

*I was trying to find the right word to describe her hair; so I picked up "oleagenous" out of the thesaurus.

You might instead say:

I picked the word out of a dictionary


I learned the word from a dictionary


I found the word in a dictionary


I looked up the word in the dictionary

All have varying shades of meaning; which one you mean will depend on what, exactly, you are trying to say.


To me, "picked up this word in the dictionary" implies that the person was reading the dictionary without necessarily any specific intent to learn the word, but still remembered it later in an appropriate setting or something. If you had heard it elsewhere before looking up the definition in the dictionary I might propose these two sentences: "I picked up this word from [elsewhere]." "I picked up this word's definition from the dictionary."

In any case, I would propose the synonyms "acquired" and "learned".

  • "I picked up this word in the dictionary."
  • "I acquired this word from the dictionary."
  • "I learned this word from the dictionary."

  • "I picked up this skill in England.

  • "I acquired this skill in England.
  • "I learned this skill in England.

  • "I picked up this move from the karate master who trounced me."

  • "I acquired this move from the karate master who trounced me."
  • "I learned this move from the karate master who trounced me."

In the first 2 examples there is no difference between the three words - but in the third example "learned" implies the karate master intentionally taught it to you, while "picked up" implies you figured it out from being trounced. "Acquired" gives no implication either way. Also keep in mind that when using "picked up" in relation to physical objects "acquired" remains a synonym but "learned" does not.


First of, "Pick Up" is correct and indeed usable in this context

As I understand your sentence, synonyms that come to mind are




I recommend you to look at their different definitions and see if they fit.

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