from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun A pointed stake often driven into the ground to support a fence, secure a tent, tether animals, mark points in surveying, or, when pointed at the top, serve as a defense.
  • noun A detachment of one or more troops, ships, or aircraft held in readiness or advanced to warn of an enemy's approach.
  • noun A person or group of persons stationed outside a place of employment, usually during a strike, to express grievance or protest and discourage entry by nonstriking employees or customers.
  • noun A person or group of persons present outside a building to protest.
  • intransitive verb To enclose, secure, tether, mark out, or fortify with pickets.
  • intransitive verb To post as a picket.
  • intransitive verb To guard with a picket.
  • intransitive verb To post a picket or pickets during a strike or demonstration.
  • intransitive verb To act or serve as a picket.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • To place a picket or guard (see picket, n., 3) near a shop or mill, during a strike, to prevent men who do not belong to the striking organization or body from obtaining work in the shop, or to prevent the employers from securing such laborers.
  • noun The tern or sea-swallow. Also pickie.
  • To fortify with pickets or pointed stakes; also, to inclose or fence with narrow pointed boards or pales.
  • To fasten to a picket or stake, as a horse.
  • To torture by compelling to stand with one foot on a pointed stake.
  • To place or post as a guard of observation.
  • To make into pickets.
  • noun A pointed post, stake, or bar, usually of wood.
  • noun Milit.: A guard posted in front of an army to give notice of the approach of the enemy: called-an outlying picket.
  • noun A detachment of troops in a camp kept fully equipped and ready for immediate service in case of an alarm or the approach of an enemy: called an inlying picket.
  • noun A small detachment of men sent out from a camp or garrison to bring in such of the soldiers as have exceeded their leave. See guard, post, etc.
  • noun A body of men belonging to a trades-union sent to watch and annoy men working in a shop not belonging to the union, or against which a strike is in progress.
  • noun A game at cards. See piquet.
  • noun A punishment which consists in making the offender stand with one foot on a pointed stake.
  • noun An elongated projectile pointed in front.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • transitive verb To fortify with pointed stakes.
  • transitive verb To inclose or fence with pickets or pales.
  • transitive verb To tether to, or as to, a picket.
  • transitive verb To guard, as a camp or road, by an outlying picket.
  • transitive verb obsolete To torture by compelling to stand with one foot on a pointed stake.
  • noun A stake sharpened or pointed, especially one used in fortification and encampments, to mark bounds and angles; or one used for tethering horses.
  • noun A pointed pale, used in marking fences.
  • noun (Mil.) A detached body of troops serving to guard an army from surprise, and to oppose reconnoitering parties of the enemy; -- called also outlying picket.
  • noun Cant By extension, men appointed by a trades union, or other labor organization, to intercept outsiders, and prevent them from working for employers with whom the organization is at variance.
  • noun A military punishment, formerly resorted to, in which the offender was forced to stand with one foot on a pointed stake.
  • noun A game at cards. See Piquet.
  • noun (Mil.) a detachment of troops held in camp or quarters, detailed to march if called upon.
  • noun a fence made of pickets. See def. 2, above.
  • noun (Mil.) a guard of horse and foot, always in readiness in case of alarm.
  • noun (Mil.) A rope to which horses are secured when groomed.
  • noun an iron pin for picketing horses.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun A stake driven into the ground.
  • noun historical A type of punishment by which an offender had to rest his or her entire body weight on the top of a small stake.
  • noun A tool in mountaineering that is driven into the snow and used as an anchor or to arrest falls.
  • noun military Soldiers or troops placed on a line forward of a position to warn against an enemy advance. It can also refer to any unit (for example, an aircraft or ship) performing a similar function.
  • noun A sentry. Can be used figuratively.
  • noun A protester positioned outside an office, workplace etc. during a strike (usually in plural); also the protest itself.
  • verb intransitive To protest, organized by a labour union, typically in front of the location of employment.
  • verb transitive To enclose or fortify with pickets or pointed stakes.


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

[French piquet, from Old French, from piquer, to prick; see pique.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From French piquet, from piquer ("to pierce").


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  • All quiet along the Potomac to-night,

    No sound save the rush of the river,

    While soft falls the dew on the face of the dead -

    The picket's off duty forever.

    Ethel Lynn Beers (1827-1879), All Quiet along the Potomac

    September 19, 2009