• pica
  • audio pronunciation
  • \PYE-kuh\
  • DEFINITION

noun

: an abnormal desire to eat substances (as chalk or ashes) not normally eaten
  • EXAMPLES

Some women suffer from pica during pregnancy.

"Pica is an eating disorder that makes you want to nibble on substances with no nutritional value. Sufferers crave washing powder, cigarette ash, dog food, soil, chalk, ice and raw rice, among other things." — Shenaaz Jamal, The Times (South Africa), June 17, 2014

  • DID YOU KNOW?

In Latin, pica means "magpie." The magpie bird is an opportunistic omnivore that characteristically eats just about anything. The eating disorder in which people are compelled to eat nonnutritious substances—such as ice, dirt, hair, or laundry starch—has since the 16th century taken its name from that bird of indiscriminate eating habits. Another pica dating back to the 16th century refers to a 12-point printing type. According to one theory, the name comes from a collection of church rules called "pica" whose close black print on white pages resembled the coloring of the magpie; however, no such collection printed in pica from the 16th century is known.

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