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

  • n. A printer's unit of type size, equal to 12 points or about 1/6 of an inch.
  • n. An equivalent unit of composition measurement used in determining the dimensions of lines, illustrations, or printed pages.
  • n. A type size for typewriters, providing ten characters to the inch.
  • n. An abnormal craving or appetite for nonfood substances, such as dirt, paint, or clay.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A vitiated appetite that craves what is unfit for food, as chalk, ashes, coal, etc.; chthonophagia.
  • n. A size of type.
  • n. A unit of measure equivalent to 12 points.
  • n. A Roman Catholic service book; a type of ecclesiastical calendar book.
  • n. Archaic form of pika. (small rodent)

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. The genus that includes the magpies.
  • n. A vitiated appetite that craves what is unfit for food, as chalk, ashes, coal, etc.; chthonophagia.
  • n. A service-book. See Pie.
  • n. A size of type next larger than small pica, and smaller than English.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A genus of oscine passerine birds of the family Corvidæ and sub-family Garrulinæ, having an extremely long graduated tail, the nostrils covered with antrorse plumules, and the plumage iridescent black and white; the magpies.
  • n. [lowercase] A bird of the genus Pica; a pie; a magpie.
  • n. In medicine, a vitiated craving for what is unfit for food, as chalk, ashes, or coal.
  • n. Eccles., same as ordinal, 2 .
  • n. An alphabetical catalogue of names and things in rolls and records.
  • n. A size of printing-type, about 6 lines to the inch, intermediate between the sizes English (larger) and small-pica (smaller).

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

  • n. a linear unit (1/6 inch) used in printing
  • n. an eating disorder, frequent in children, in which non-nutritional objects are eaten persistently
  • n. magpies


Probably from Medieval Latin pīca, list of church services (perhaps from the typeface used to print it).
New Latin pīca, from Latin, magpie (from its omnivorous nature).
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Latin pīca, “magpie”, “jay” (from the idea that magpies will eat almost anything) (Wiktionary)
The printing senses are probably from named the obsolete service book, which used this type size (compare canon and brevier) . In turn seemingly from Latin pīca ("magpie"), after the piebald appearance of the typeset page (compare pie ("disordered type")). (Wiktionary)


  • That's because, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word "pie" - defined as a baked dish topped with and sometimes also surrounded by pastry - may well derive from the Latin word pica, meaning magpie.


  • "The new message is sent to the Bot class to create a new robot and associate with it the name pica := is for assignment"

    messages are different in Smalltalk

  • Children who are iron deficient will eat dirt, a condition known as pica, in an attempt to get what their body needs.

    The UltraMetabolism Cookbook

  • UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They had a disorder called pica, where they ate things that aren ` t food, like chalk, dirt, batteries, things like that.

    CNN Transcript Sep 14, 2005

  • If you have it, you are going to see these symptoms -- weakness and fatigue, shortness of breath, headaches, difficulty concentrating, irritability, dizziness, ringing in the ears, and something known as pica -- this is a very interesting phenomenon, Paula.

    CNN Transcript Oct 11, 2002

  • The twelfth part of a pica is the unit, called a _point_, by which type bodies are measured.

    Up To Date Business Home Study Circle Library Series (Volume II.)

  • The habit of dirt eating or clay-eating, called pica, is well authenticated in many countries.

    Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine

  • Some patients have a condition called pica, thought to be caused by a nutritional deficiency, where they ingest rocks, clay, or dirt. Top Stories

  • Occasionally, when dogs and cats are severely ill, they display a behavior called pica, where they eat unusual items.

    SFGate: Top News Stories

  • It is now called pica after the magpies, or Picae, whose diet includes everything eaten by anything or anyone.

    VERBATIM: The Language Quarterly Vol XX No 1


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