(third-person singular simple present plucks, present participle plucking, simple past and past participle plucked or obsolete, pluckt)
- To pull something sharply; to pull something out
- She plucked the phone from her bag and dialled.
- (music) To gently play a single string, e.g. on a guitar, violin etc.
- Whereas a piano strikes the string, a harpsichord plucks it.
- To remove feathers from a bird.
- To rob, fleece, steal forcibly
- The horny highwayman plucked his victims to their underwear, or attractive ones all the way
- To play a string instrument pizzicato
- Plucking a bow instrument may cause a string to break
- (intransitive) To pull or twitch sharply.
- to pluck at somebody's sleeve
- (UK, universities) To reject at an examination for degrees.
From Middle English plucken, plukken, plockien, from Old English pluccian, ploccian (“to pluck, pull away, tear"), also Old English plyÄ‹Ä‹an ("to pluck, pull, snatch; pluck with desire"; > Modern English plitch), from Proto-Germanic *plukkÅnÄ…, *plukkijanÄ… (“to pluck"), of uncertain and disputed origin. Perhaps related to Old English pullian (“to pull, draw; pluck off; snatch"). Cognate with Dutch plukken (“to pluck"), Limburgish plÃ³gte (“to pluck"), Low German plukken (“to pluck"), German pflÃ¼cken (“to pluck, pick"), Danish plukke (“to pick"), Swedish plocka (“to pick, pluck, cull"), Icelandic plokka, plukka (“to pluck, pull"). More at pull.
An alternate etymology suggests Proto-Germanic *plukkÅnÄ…, *plukkijanÄ… may have been borrowed from an assumed Vulgar Latin *piluccÄre, *pilicÄre, a derivative of Latin pilÄre (“to deprive of hair, make bald, depilate"), from pilus (“hair"). The Oxford English Dictionary, however, finds difficulties with this and cites gaps in historical evidence.
The noun sense of "heart, liver, and lights of an animal" comes from it being plucked out of the carcas after the animal is killed; the sense of "fortitude, boldness" derives from this meaning, originally being a boxing slang denoting a prize-ring, with semantic development from "heart", the symbol of courage, to "fortitude, boldness".