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The Collaborative International Dictionary

Picts \Picts\, n. pl.; sing. Pict. [L. Picti; cf. AS. Peohtas.] (Ethnol.) A race of people of uncertain origin, who inhabited Scotland in early times.


The Picts were a tribal confederation of peoples who lived in what is today eastern and northern Scotland during the Late Iron Age and Early Medieval periods. They are thought to have been ethnolinguistically Celtic. Where they lived and what their culture was like can be inferred from the geographical distribution of brochs, Brittonic place name elements, and Pictish stones. Picts are attested to in written records from before the Roman conquest of Britain to the 10th century, when they are thought to have merged with the Gaels. They lived to the north of the rivers Forth and Clyde, and spoke the now-extinct Pictish language, which is thought to have been related to the Brittonic language spoken by the Britons who lived to the south of them.

Picts are assumed to have been the descendants of the Caledonii and other tribes that were mentioned by Roman historians or on the world map of Ptolemy. Pictland, also called Pictavia by some sources, gradually merged with the Gaelic kingdom of Dál Riata to form the Kingdom of Alba (Scotland). Alba then expanded, absorbing the Brittonic kingdom of Strathclyde and Bernician Lothian, and by the 11th century the Pictish identity had been subsumed into the " Scots" amalgamation of peoples.

Pictish society was typical of many Iron Age societies in northern Europe, having "wide connections and parallels" with neighbouring groups. Archaeology gives some impression of the society of the Picts. While very little in the way of Pictish writing has survived, Pictish history since the late 6th century is known from a variety of sources, including Bede's Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum, saints' lives such as that of Columba by Adomnán, and various Irish annals.

Usage examples of "picts".

The trees hid them and the Picts from each other, and Conan trusted that he was a match for any Pict they might stumble across at close range.

The Picts in their native forests are no easy prey even when one does not have to fight the snow and cold as well.

Knowing that our bows had the range of theirs, they waited until the lay of the ground and the pattern of the trees let them slip close, all in that silence that none except cats and Picts on the hunt can maintain.

As with most Picts, they wore feathers and tattoos, breechclouts and war paint, and precious little else.

Friends were mostly naked, and another score of Picts died howling or moaning with Pictish arrows through their gizzards.

That would tell the camp where we were, and they would be up with us long before the surviving Picts could muster numbers or courage to come at us on the high ground.

If the Picts did not cut us off from the streams, the rills would be swollen full by the rain, and there might be water toward the rear of the cave, which seemed to lead far into the rocks.

She had even ventured to speak sharply to him about wasting his strength and frightening those Picts within hearing.

Conan judged that he was upwind of the main body of the Picts and that the breeze would hide any slight noises he made.

A solid mass of Picts was not slow to appear, well-hidden from below but naked to the keen blue eyes studying them from above.

Also, the Picts were busy trying to kill him and he was equally busy trying to stay alive.

Four live, full-armed Picts faced a Bamula lad with only spear and war club left to make the songs about him worth hearing.

Conan, three Picts had no more chance than three goats against a lion.

Some of those foes were hillmen like the Picts, although the Pictish Wilderness was more heavily wooded than the Ilbars Mountains or the wastes of northern Iranistan.

Thus placed, the Picts could have caught the Bamulas in a deadly hail of arrows from both sides as the warriors came uphill.