1 [pahy-kuh]
noun Printing.
a 12-point type of a size between small pica and English.
the depth of this type size as a unit of linear measurement for type, pages containing type, etc.; one sixth of an inch.
a 12-point type, widely used for typewriters, having 10 characters to the inch. Compare elite ( def 4 ).

1580–90; apparently < Medieval Latin pīca pie4, on the model of brevier, canon1 (def 14)

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2 [pahy-kuh]
noun Pathology.
an abnormal appetite or craving for substances that are not fit to eat, as chalk or clay, common in malnutrition, pregnancy, etc.

1555–65; < Neo-Latin, special use of Latin pīca jay, magpie, with reference to its omnivorous feeding

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World English Dictionary
pica1 (ˈpaɪkə)
1.  em, Also called: pica em a printer's unit of measurement, equal to 12 points or 0.166 ins
2.  (formerly) a size of printer's type equal to 12 point
3.  a typewriter type size having 10 characters to the inch
[C15: from Anglo-Latin pīca list of ecclesiastical regulations, apparently from Latin pīca magpie, with reference to its habit of making collections of miscellaneous items; the connection between the original sense (ecclesiastical list) and the typography meanings is obscure]

pica2 (ˈpaɪkə)
pathol an abnormal craving to ingest substances such as clay, dirt, or hair, sometimes occurring during pregnancy, in persons with chlorosis, etc
[C16: from medical Latin, from Latin: magpie, being an allusion to its omnivorous feeding habits]

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Word Origin & History

"size of type of about six lines to the inch" (12 point), 1588, probably from M.L. pica, name of a book of rules in Church of England for determining holy days (1497, in Anglo-L.), probably from L. pica "magpie;" the book so called perhaps from the color and the "pied" look of the old type on close-printed
pages. The type size was that generally used to print ordinals.

"pathological craving for substance unfit for food" (such as chalk), 1563, from M.L. pica "magpie," probably translating Gk. kissa, kitta "magpie, jay," also "false appetite." The connecting notion may be the birds' indiscriminate feeding.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Medical Dictionary

pica pi·ca (pī'kə)
An abnormal craving or appetite for nonfood substances, such as dirt, paint, or clay.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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