verb (used with object), pic·tured, pic·tur·ing.
Origin of picture
OTHER WORDS FROM picture
WORDS THAT MAY BE CONFUSED WITH picturepicture pitcher
Words nearby picture
BEHIND THE WORD
Where does picture come from?
A picture, as they say, is worth a thousand words. But what about the word picture? We’re not going to write a thousand words on picture—although we could. Believe us when we say we could. So, here’s a briefer word picture (see what we did there?) on the origin of this versatile word.
In its most general sense, a picture is a visual representation of something, especially in the form of a painting, drawing, photograph, or the like. A picture can also refer to a mental image, among other senses. One meaning of picture, as a verb, is “to represent something in a picture or pictorially”—pictorial being a related adjective form variously used to refer to pictures.
The word picture entered English around 1375–1425, borrowed directly from the Latin word pictūra, “the act of painting, a painting.” The word is based on pict(us), the past participle of the verb pingere, meaning “to paint.” The verb could also mean “to draw, embroider, represent,” among other senses. The second part of pictūra is -ūra, a noun suffix represented as -ure in English. See our entry at –ure to learn more about this suffix.
The meaning of the word picture has been very stable in English. Just as it originally did in the late 1300s, a picture can still refer to a drawing or painting— whether it’s your kid’s crayon-scrawled family portrait on your fridge or Leonardo DaVinci’s Mona Lisa in the Louvre. Both are masterpieces, as far as we’re concerned. Please note, though, that when referring to formal or professional works, we often use the name of the medium (painting, photograph, film), with picture referring to more informal or amateur creations.
But picture has also been remarkably adaptable, readily lending itself to images created by new technologies: photography, cinema, TV, and all the pictures we take on our smartphones and post on social media.
The word movie—it’s easy to forget in an age of Netflix streaming and viral TikTok videos—is shortened from the phrase moving picture. And what are digital images composed of? Tiny pixels. That word is based on pix, a variant of pics, a common shortening of picture. A picture, we might say today, is worth (many) thousands of pixels.
Did you know ... ?
As we noted in the previous section, picture ultimately comes from the Latin verb pingere. Picture is not the only word English gets from this root, however.
Pingere evolved into the Old French peindre, whose past participle was peint, source of the English paint and related forms. That means a painting, etymologically speaking, is a picture.
Did you know these words are also rooted in the Latin pingere, “to paint”?
Example sentences from the Web for picture
There is just no way of selling this picture with an innocent defense like, “she just asked for a snap.”Buckingham Palace Disputes Sex Allegations Against Prince ‘Randy Andy’ |Tom Sykes |January 4, 2015 |DAILY BEAST
I noticed a picture of her daughter, who was my classmate, and out of curiosity visited her page.50 Shades of Iran: The Mullahs’ Kinky Fantasies about Sex in the West |IranWire, Shima Sharabi |January 1, 2015 |DAILY BEAST
We want to give the families and the other cops, too, as clear a picture as we can.
Elle magazine shot an editorial in September, one picture revealing a teacup pig sitting pretty by a mini Tyler Alexandra bag.Handbags: The More You Pay, The Smaller They Shrink |Elizabeth Landers |December 29, 2014 |DAILY BEAST
Then there was an event, an HRC event, and I took a picture with Monique, the actress and comedian.How A Company’s Support of Gay Employees Helped One of Them To Come Out | |December 24, 2014 |DAILY BEAST
The moon is still figured as a bull, but it is the idea of strength that is extracted from the picture and dwelt upon.The Religion of Babylonia and Assyria |Morris Jastrow
Then he took it into his head to go and copy a picture at the Louvre—an old master; in this he felt he could not go wrong.The Martian |George Du Maurier
They run away with me; I picture it to myself—this blessed thing—and I forget.The Yellow House |E. Phillips Oppenheim
The object was a picture, the picture of a young man in the uniform of a captain in the German cuirassiers.Stories That End Well |Octave Thanet
Lithotint, lith′o-tint, n. the process of producing coloured pictures from lithographic stones: a picture so produced.
British Dictionary definitions for picture
- a visual representation of something, such as a person or scene, produced on a surface, as in a photograph, painting, etc
- (as modifier)picture gallery; picture postcard Related adjective: pictorial
- a motion picture; film
- (as modifier)picture theatre
Word Origin for picture
Idioms and Phrases with picture
In addition to the idiom beginning with picture
- picture is worth a thousand words, one
- get the message (picture)
- in the picture
- pretty as a picture
- take a picture
- the picture