The dictionary says "pick the phone up" means "​to answer a phone".

Is the usage of "pick the phone up" restricted to the table phone used in the past or can it be used for any kind of phone?

For example, when I say "my iPhone rang and I picked it up", I mean I pressed the blue receive-call button on my iPhone?

It might be ambiguous because "I picked my iPhone up" means I just literally picked it up without pressing any button on it.is there any better phrase that might not cause ambiguity?

  • I would usually say "picked up my iPhone", not separating the picked and up. But to me it only sounds like literally picking it up, not answering it. DialFrost is right that "pick up the phone" has historically meant "answer the phone", not "literally lift the phone", but that idiom was from a time when you answered a phone simply by picking up the handset; cell phones have made that idiom less useful, I think.
    – stangdon
    Commented Jun 17, 2022 at 11:33

1 Answer 1


"Pick up the phone" is widely used to describe answering a call, not so much to literally pick the phone up. But if you want to exclude all ambiguity, then simply use:

answer the phone

Answering the phone requires pressing the pick-up button.

  • You could disambiguate with 'pick up the call' too. It's not going to be too long before we have a world full of people who have never seen a landline, so don't have the reference in their back catalogue. Commented Jun 18, 2022 at 7:03

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