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.

  • 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.
  • 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 The tern or sea-swallow. Also pickie.
  • 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.

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

  • 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.
  • 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.

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