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From Middle English pekker, equivalent to peck (to pick at something in the manner of a bird) +‎ -er (forming agent nouns).


  • IPA(key): /ˈpɛkə(ɹ)/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ɛkə(ɹ)


pecker (plural peckers)

  1. Someone who or something that pecks, striking or piercing in the manner of a bird's beak or bill, particularly:
    • 2003 October 18, The Economist, "Stress Test"
      Two studies of British civil servants, for example, suggest that those at the top of the heap are less stressed than those near the bottom. Work on other species, too, indicates that when it comes to pecking orders, the peckees are more stressed than the peckers.
    1. (uncommon or regional) Any tool used in a pecking fashion, particularly kinds of hoes or pickaxes.
      • 1588, Thomas Hariot, A Briefe and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia, sig. C2:
        The women with short peckers or parers,... of a foote long and about fiue inches in breadth: doe onely breake the vpper part of the ground to rayse vp the weedes, grasse, & old stubbes of corne stalkes with their rootes... For their corne,... with a pecker they make a hole, wherein they put foure graines.
      • 1782, J. Scott, Poetical Works, page 119:
        Let sturdy youths their pointed peckers ply,
        Till the rais'd roots loose on the surface lie.
      • 1848, Journal of the Royal Agricultural Society, 9 ii. 551:
        A small narrow hoe or pecker... A small hand-pecker.
      • 1948, M. Carbery, E. Grey, Hertfordshire Heritage, page 120:
        Pecker, small pickaxe for cutting furze.
    2. (uncommon) Any machine or machine part moving in a pecking fashion, particularly:
      • 1922, Whittaker's Mechanical Engineer's Pocket Book, page 368:
        The upper end of the finger o carries a "pecker" p, which consists of a hardened steel piece with a V edge. This pecker is engaged by any one of several steps or notches in a stepped block m carried by the rocking lever l.
      1. (weaving, obsolete) A picker, a shuttle-driver: the device which moves backwards and forwards in the shuttle-box to drive the shuttle through the warp.
        • 1807, Thomas Johnson, British Patent № 3023 (1856), 5:
          The shuttle... receives its motion from the peckers connected with cords pulled by the pecking lever.
        • 1878, Alfred Barlow, The History and Principles of Weaving by Hand and by Power, x. 136:
          When the shaft [of the draw-boy] rocks from side to side of the machine, it will carry the pecker... with it.
      2. (telegraphy, historical) A kind of V-shaped telegraphic relay.
        • 1858 June 13, H.C.F. Jenkin, letter in Papers (1887), volume I, page lxxxvi:
          Click, click, click, the pecker is at work.
        • 1940, Chambers's Technical Dictionary, 621/1:
          Pecker, the small cylindrical pin which rises and falls in scanning the holes punched in a slip corresponding to the coding of the message.
      3. (US regional, historical) Clipping of pecker mill, a rice mill.
        • 1802, J. Drayton, A view of South Carolina, as respects her natural and civil concerns, page 121:
          Rice mills, called pecker, cog, and water mills... The first... so called, from the pestle's striking... in the manner of a wood pecker.
        • 1949, S. C. Murray, This Our Land: the Story of the Agricultural Society of South Carolina, page 41:
          After being thrashed by flail or whipped off, the rice was milled and dressed wholly by hand or by a crude machine called a ‘pecker’.
    3. (zoology) A bird, particularly a member of the group including the woodpeckers, flowerpeckers, oxpeckers, and berrypeckers.
      • 1697, Publius Virgilius Maro, translated by John Dryden, Georgics, section IV:
        The Titmouse, and the Peckers hungry Brood.
      • 1884 January, George Allen in Longman's Magazine, page 294:
        By far the greater number of modern birds belong to the... orders of the perchers, the peckers, and the birds of prey.
      1. (zoology, usually colloquial or US regional) Clipping of woodpecker (Picidae).
        • 1883, Jacob Grimm, translated by J.S. Stallybrass, Teutonic Mythology, volume III, page 973:
          The pecker was esteemed a sacred and divine bird.
        • 1980 January 20, Washington Post, m1:
          I've been feeding several downy ’peckers from my short-perched tubes for years.
    4. (UK regional, obsolete) An eater, a diner.
      • 1862, C.C. Robinson, The Dialect of Leeds & Its Neighbourhood, page 383:
        He's a rare pecker.
      • 1873, Slang Dictionary:
        Peck... A hearty eater is generally called ‘a rare pecker’.
      • 1894, Mrs. H. Ward, Marcella, II. iv. v. 476:
        But I've been better iver since, an' beginnin' to eat my vittles, too, though I'm never no great pecker.
    5. (UK regional) A bird's beak or bill.
      • 1891, G. Sweetman, A Glossary of Words used by the rural population in the parish and neighbourhood of Wincanton, Somerset:
        Pecker, a bird's bill
      • 1967, H. Orton & M. F. Wakelin, A Survey of English dialects B, volume 4:
        Q. What does a bird peck its food up with?... [Wiltshire] Beak, pecker.
    6. (chiefly US, regional, slang) A penis; cock, dick.
      • 1902, J. S. Farmer, W. E. Henley, Slang and Its Analogues, London, V. 289/2:
        The penis... pecker.
      • 1936, Henry Miller, “The Tailor Shop”, in Black Spring, Paris: The Obelisk Press [], →OCLC; republished New York, N.Y.: Grove Press, 1963, →ISBN, pages 125–126:
        Ought to stand on Times Square with my pecker in my hand and piss in the gutter.
      • 1964, American Folk Music Occasional, i. 12:
        There is a house down in New Orleans,
        They call it The Rising Sun,
        When you want to get your pecker spoilt,
        That's where you get it done.
      • 1990 Fall, Paris Review, volume 32, number 116, page 171:
        He has the biggest pecker in the pool, politically speaking.
  2. (UK colloquial, by extension of the sense ‘beak) A nose.
  3. (UK colloquial, by extension, from the expression ‘keep one's pecker up) Spirits, nerve, courage.
    • 1845 September 15, Times (London), 8/3:
      Mr. King... misstated the fact in saying that he had put a piece of lighted paper to the master's nose while asleep in that house; it was his hot pipe that he applied to the sleeper's nostrils, at the same time crying: Come, old chap, keep your pecker up.
    • 1873, Slang Dictionary:
      Pecker, ‘keep your Pecker up’,... literally, keep your beak and head well up, ‘never say die’.
    • 1875, W.S. Gilbert, Trial by Jury, section 4:
      Be firm, my moral pecker.
    • 1900, Joseph Conrad, chapter 5, in Lord Jim:
      ... he had every facility given him to remain under lock and key, with a chair, a table, a mattress in a corner, and a litter of fallen plaster on the floor, in an irrational state of funk, and keeping up his pecker with such tonics as Mariani dispensed.
    • 2003, J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, page xii:
      Fred and I managed to keep our peckers up somehow.
  4. (chiefly in the plural, derogatory slang) Short for peckerwood ("whitey; white trash")
    • 1966, R.G. Toepfer, Witness, xvi. 127:
      These peckers know that as well as me.
    • 1971, D. Wells, S. Dance, Night People, i. 7:
      Those cats wouldn't let us get five feet from the Y.M.C.A. Like real peckers, they'd say, ‘If I had you down South.’
  5. (chiefly in the plural, derogatory slang) Short for peckerhead ("dickhead; an aggressive or objectionable idiot").
    • 2013, Sean Moore, "Sat Phone Black Op" in Outside the Wire, 41[1]:
      Goddammit! I give you peckers an inch and you automatically take a mile []
  6. (US) Clipping of pecker head ("an electric motor's junction or terminal connection box, where power cords are connected to the winding leads").


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  • Oxford English Dictionary, 3rd ed. "pecker, n." Oxford University Press (Oxford), 2005.